By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter
March Madness hit the nation the second week of March and most African American basketball fans are not feeling it. There are several reasons for this uneasiness and doubt. African American schools went the big 1 for 7. On the Ladies side the South Carolina Gamecocks dismissed the (MEAC) Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champion Norfolk State Lady Spartans 72-40. (SWAC) Southwestern Athletic Conference Champion Southern University Jaguars lost to Sacred Heart in the play in round 57-47. Something has to change. Black schools do not seem to be equal partners in the (NCAA) National Collegiate Athletic Association. African American schools know they will not receive a decent seed no matter what their record happens to be. Mid-Majors had the same problem until they took a stand 25 years ago.
On the men’s (HBCU’s) Historically Black Colleges and Universities side it was not better. North Texas defeated The Alcorn State Braves 69-53 in the (NIT) National Invitational Tournament. The Howard Bison men played the number one seeded Kansas Jayhawks for one half before falling 96-68. Fairleigh Dickerson defeated Texas Southern Lady Tigers 84-61 on the ladies’ side of NIT. Is it not coincidence that both NCAA men and women’s number one seeded team played a HBCU team. It has not been the first time either.
The unwritten rules are still slanted against HBCU’s year after year. (ESPN) Entertainment and Sports Network and the (CBS) Columbian Broadcasting System are co-conspirators keeping this system in place.
The pattern has been set for African American schools by the NCAA with very high 14, 15, or 16th seeds. Mid-Majors at the end of the 1990 and the turn of the century gave the NCAA a warning, an alternative, stating if you don’t include our schools with lower seeded positions American East Conference, Atlantic Sun Conference, A-10-Atlantic Ten, MVC-Missouri Valley Conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Big Sky Conference, and OVC-Ohio Valley Conference will be leaving the NCAA umbrella. It took about 5-10 years before these schools received the somewhat equal footing on the level of the five families, Big-10, Pac-12, (SEC)South Eastern Conference, Big East, and Big-12. Maybe just maybe HBCU should give the NCAA the same warning.
Hampton University Pirates and North Carolina A&T University Aggies (Black schools) changed conferences (Colonial) because their second-place finishes in their HBCU conferences could not get NCAA bids. Just like the Creighton Bluejays and Wichita State Wheat Shockers exited the (MVC) Missouri Valley Conference nine years before because they could not receive bids from the NCAA. The Valley had been targeted for years because of their weak out of conference schedules. In 1989-90 the Saluki men of Southern Illinois University won the Regular Season Title with a 26-8 record but lost the MVC Arch Madness Tournament to the Illinois State Redbirds. The selection committee passed on SIU because they happen to be a mid-major.
HAMPTON UNIVERSITY PIRATES AND NORFOLK STATE SPARTANS
This year HBCU basketball teams went 1-7 in the first weekend of March Madness and everybody just moved on like business as usual. Not much has changed for the men and women HBCU basketball teams. On the female side the Jackson State Lady Tigers played the Memphis Tigers lost while the Spartans of Norfolk State took on the defending and undefeated University of South Carolina Gamecocks this year.
HAMPTON LADY PIRATE LESSON
The Lady Pirates of Hampton University champions of the MEAC did everything the NCAA asked them to do six years ago. The Lady Pirates received another 16 seed and a date with the Lady Blue Devils in their den in North Carolina. It is 2023 and not much has changed in HBCU’s as history repeats itself with the Norfolk State 16th seed.
This year the MEAC Lady Spartans of Norfolk State ran up against Black head coach and defending NCAA champion Dawn Staley and the undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks. The University of South Carolina is currently on a 40-game winning streak.
Six years ago, the NCAA asked the Hampton University Lady Pirates to play 30 games… they did that winning 28-5. This year the same governing force informed the Norfolk State Lady Spartans to do the same and they responded with a 26-6 record.
NORFOLK SPARTANS PLAN
The NCAA asked Hampton University to play a tough schedule outside of the MEAC. They did that by playing Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State, Louisiana State, South Carolina, DePaul, South Carolina State, and Florida Gulf Coast.
This year Lady Spartans followed the Hampton Lady Pirates blueprint defeating Chicago State, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, William and Mary, University of Tennessee Martin, Campbell, Marshall University, and Appalachian State losing to Penn State, Old Dominion, and the University of Alabama, larger schools.
The Norfolk State Spartans scheduled teams they knew they could beat padding their schedule just as the Division One schools have done for years. There was only one problem: they did not receive the same reward in March.
The Hampton University Lady Pirates six years ago beat ranked teams. Hampton did that by defeating The Lady Golden Eagles of Southern Miss., the Lady Bulldogs of Mississippi State, and the Lady Tigers of Louisiana State University. The Lady Spartans of Norfolk State won all but three of their outside conference games this year.
The NCAA asked Hampton to win the MEAC regular season title and the MEAC Tournament, The Lady Pirates did that TOO. History is repeating itself with the 26-6 Norfolk Lady Spartans, the green and gold won the MEAC title this year.
Six years ago, the Gray Leopard Cove stated that HBCU’S needed to make that move away from the March Tournament Games, away from the NCAA, to create their own HBCU Tournament for all Four Black conferences-MEAC, SWAC, CIAA, and SIAC. For the Ladies the numbers are glaring with only Cheyney State moving past the first round and that was 43 years ago.
Hall of Fame Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer guided CSU to the finals. It would be the last time a predominantly Black school would come this close. It has been a chore to advance beyond the play-in or first round game. The playing field is slanted toward the five families who out recruit HBCU’S year after year. This is not going to change anytime soon.
The Cheyney State ladies in 1984 were the last HBCU team to past the first round playing number 6 Maryland. The long drought ended 38-years later with Howard University Lady Bison beating Incarnate Word 55-51 in 2022.
This must be unacceptable and needs to be rectified by the NCAA, but it seems like they don’t care. The bicycle is not broken in their eyes and the funding keeps flowing because the NCAA is telling America we do not need HBCU teams to survive just as they told Mid-Majors 25 years ago.
The only solution for the HBCUs is to separate themselves from the NCAA and create their own March Madness with their own funding sources, since the NCAA cannot or will not initiate fair treatment. Black schools male or female will always be the 14th, 15th, or 16th, seed with no recourse to protest or contend. It is time for a change, again this is what Colin Kaepernick was discussing years ago. Economic equality for HBCU’S. ARE YOU LISTENING, NCAA?
NEXT THE HBCU MEN-PART II
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Ma ss. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad News Network Disabled Community Activist. Email at
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