Where Will HBCUs Go in Revamped NCAA?

Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Commissioner Greg Moore recently told the Montgomery Advertiser that growing talks about revenue possibilities in NCAA sports are being made without consideration for historically Black colleges and universities.

“I believe the gap between the have and have nots is growing to the point where it’s becoming alarming,” Moore said. “When you have the average payout at a Power 5 conference school exceeds the top line revenue of all the HBCU conferences combined, that’s a problem,” Moore said. “That should be discussed. No one is talking about it.”

According to Moore, the combined revenue of all Division I and II historically Black conference member institutions is around $18 million annually, while one member school in the five ‘high-visibility’ athletic conferences is likely to make $20 million in a year.

The comments followed remarks made by Big 12 President Bob Bowlsby on ESPN’s Mike and Mike, where he said the five power conferences are being forced into a position of creating a new division, because policies on compensation and amateurism will prove harmful to mid-major DI programs.

And outright dangerous for HBCUs who face real prospects of limited guaranteed games against BCS opponents in the near future.

Assessing HBCU athletics in 2014 is simple — we don’t know our athletes, we don’t attend our games, we don’t travel with our teams, and the companies we support don’t advertise with our programs. Changing one or two of these elements could have seismic results on developing historically Black sports — Southern University and Bethune-Cookman University are perfect examples.

But for the rest of the member institutions who rely on DI membership for scholarship funding support to bolster enrollment, is the question as much about what the NCAA can give up, or what HBCUs can do to recalibrate the appeal and accessibility of good competition? More marketing and more targeted fundraising initiatives seem to be the obvious answers, but nothing is obvious when dealing with few dollars and even fewer staff members.

Potential solutions are complex and far too great for one umbrella fix. What is good for Jackson State and Hampton may not be good for Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State. And what works for the CIAA Basketball Tournament in 2015 may not be practical for the tournament three years from now. Part of the equation — fans understanding their roles as financiers, marketers and brand managers of the game day and conference experience.

The other side? The HBCU have-nots considering a secession plan from the NCAA. Because larger, richer DI member schools will not continue subsidizing a product that can’t generate buzz and revenue from its own fan base.