It took me almost three weeks to write about this fan experience. Last college football season we partnered with HBCU Gameday and covered the Southern Miss vs. Savannah State game. After that game I shared my experience. I was sent numerous hate emails and there were a lot of people who attacked me on social media because I didn’t support the narrative they thought I would. I understand why Historically Black Colleges & Universities play these games. Alumni do not contribute consistently back to their universities so therefore the school has to get money another way. Administration at many (if not all) HBCUs tend to misuse funds and therefore losing the trust of alumni who would contribute. This is just business.
This “Pay for Play” situation has given many HBCUs life again and allowed them to assist in rebuilding their universities. Now in this Southern experience I saw a few things. I even shared one of the moments on our new podcast here in my Top 5 Fans Favorite things in College football:
One of the main things I enjoyed in this Southern experience is that both bands played together during the halftime show and fans loved it. I am from Hattiesburg, Mississippi and I’ve attended Southern Miss games all of my life. To see “The Pride of Mississippi” on the field with “The Human Jukebox” was a sight to see. I almost cried as I stood on the field watching them play “America the Beautiful” and standing united in the sound of music. Currently the state of America needs more moments like this because this “Pay for Play” game gave both universities an opportunity to stand together. There were 24, 337 fans in the stands and I looked around to see that every fan was on their feet either hugging or holding hands. It can’t heal what we have been experiencing here in America regarding racial injustice but in this moment we were one.
The next thing I witnessed during my Southern experience was recruiting. Now many college football fans know that Southern Miss’s current Head Coach Jay Hopson came from Alcorn State University. Yes. He did. If you didn’t know. I saw high school football recruits at this game with their family and a few I remember shared on their twitter pages that they had offers from an HBCU. Here’s my point and personal opinion. From a recruiting standpoint, here’s a recruit at a game like this and a 45-0 blowout win looks mighty tempting. M.M. Roberts Stadium is stunning on a Saturday night so why wouldn’t a recruit want to go anywhere else other than Southern Miss for this game day experience. Honestly, I feel like recruits should challenge themselves more and see how HBCU college football programs are just as good as a Power 5 conference school.
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) September 3, 2017
Tennessee State University came to Atlanta for a check. TSU walked off the field with that and a win over Georgia State University in their new stadium. Read more about it here.That’s my personal opinion and I could elaborate on that, but I will save that for a podcast episode.
The last thing about my Southern experience was my interview with Southern University’s Athletic Director Roman Banks. Here is Southern University playing a True Freshman Quarterback against Southern Miss because their starter QB, since October 2014, is out with a left knee injury. Here is Southern University’s fans who traveled from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to support their band and football team staying the entire game and danced together during the 5th quarter. Here is Southern University’s AD who understands the importance of “Pay for Play” games and why it is more than just a ‘check’ game.
Mr. Banks immediately thanked the fans for being loyal to Southern U and showing up to support the team. “In today’s time you have to generate revenue and so right now this was a revenue game, but it gives us a chance to tell our fans to come to a home game. Come support us so we won’t be in a position to play these games.” From a coach’s standpoint he pointed out, “I think all coaches would like to have one challenge like this on their schedule where they can see where they need to upgrade.” I asked him about how SU can use these types of games in their favor for recruiting and his response, “You get to challenge your athletes. Many of them think that they should be playing on a big stage and look at tonight we came up short. You can tell a recruit these are the reasons why we want you to come because we want to push this football program to the next level. We have to turn it around for our good. Also each kid will want to play these games to show that they belong on the next level.”
This is a really great point considering how HBCUs beat bigger college football programs in Week One and shocked fans. Guess who wasn’t shocked…. ME. I know that there’s talent at HBCUs and that there are a lot of African-American players in the Professional Football Hall of Fame who went to HBCUs. So it is possible that right now we may be witnessing a shift starting where if more teams beat the schools they play for pay then they’ll attract a more supportive fan base along with more talented recruits ready to play. What do you think?
Sometimes it’s things like this that should be shared and written about to get the average fan thinking outside of their own game day experience. I know what it’s like to have a Southern Miss fan experience and I know that a Southern University fan experience is completely different. In that night so many things changed how I view these type of games, but my main thought is still the same. These games are needed right now until something changes in the mindset of the fans who say they don’t support them nor the schools who participate in “Pay for Play” games. Shouts out to Jaguar Nation for their presence and energy felt no matter what the scoreboard said because they believe in their university.