HBCU Football Season Wrap Up

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    The 2012 season wasn’t kind to the black college football old guard. Most of the names that we have grown accustomed to seeing atop the conference standings and national rankings were conspicuous by their absence at the end of the season.

     

    The 2012 season wasn’t kind to the black college football old guard. Most of the names that we have grown accustomed to seeing atop the conference standings and national rankings were conspicuous by their absence at the end of the season.

    Traditional powers Grambling State, Florida A&M , South Carolina State and Albany State were put on guard – and likely caught off guard – by the continued emergence of a number of up-and-coming programs with relatively new coaches heading them.

    “Change is afoot,’’ says Lut Williams, publisher of Black College Sports Page. “There is a new transfusion of new blood, new coaches, new energy. It’s has been a quick change kind of thing.’’

    Winston-Salem State led the way, winning its second consecutive Black College National Championship under third-year coach Connell Maynor. The 14-1 Rams became just the second HBCU to play in the NCAA Division II Championship Game – they lost to Valdosta 35-7 – after posting their second straight unbeaten regular season en route to their second CIAA championship in a row.

    Miles, with second-year coach Reginald Ruffin at the helm, is another of the new kids on the block. The Golden Bears failed to repeat as SIAC champions after winning the conference crown for the first time in school history in 2011. But they still made history by reaching the Division II playoffs for the first time.

    Nowhere did the winds of change howl louder than they did in the MEAC.  Brian Jenkins coached Bethune-Cookman to the second conference championship of his three-year tenure – they shared the 2010 title with South Carolina State and Florida A&M. Each of the coaches of the next four teams in the conference standings was in his second season, Gary Harrell of second-place Howard and Rod Broadway at North Carolina A&T, Kermit Blount at Delaware State and Henry Frazier III of North Carolina Central, who tied for third place.

    South Carolina State, which won or shared three conference championships between 2008-10; Florida A&M, which won six conference titles between 1995-2010, Hampton, a five-time champion from 1997-2006, and defending champion and preseason favorite Norfolk State were at the opposite end of the MEAC spectrum. They were a combined 13-19 in the conference and finished fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, in the conference. None had a winning record in MEAC play.

    “The mighty have fallen,’’ Williams says.

    No HBCU has been mightier than Grambling State, historically has been the yardstick by which black college football programs are measured, and no one had a greater fall than the G-Men. Grambling, the preseason favorite to win its 23rd conference crown, was winless in the SWAC for the first time in school history and 1-10 overall with its only victory coming against Concordia.

    “It’s baffling how Grambling and Norfolk State could fall as precipitously as they did,’’ Williams says.

    Grambling’s fall from grace in the SWAC coincided with something of a resurgence of three of the conference’s more downtrodden programs, Alcorn State, Mississippi Valley State and Southern.

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