Would You Bet on an HBCU Football Game?

Like real money?

Like real money?

HBCU Sports today reports on the betting line for the mythical-no-more black college football national championship, more formally known as the Celebration Bowl.

Las Vegas Oddsmaker Makes Grambling State Heavy Favorite In Celebration Bowl
When Grambling State plays North Carolina Central in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl next Saturday in Atlanta…hbcusports.com

SWAC champion Grambling State and MEAC Champion North Carolina Central will meet this weekend for HBCU football bragging rights, and the collective chance to showcase our Division I football brands as a quality mid-major sports product for a second consecutive season.

But HBCU Sports takes a different angle on the coverage: Vegas’ heavy SWAC buy-in for the Tigers in the days leading up to the signature black college bowl game.

This week, Grambling opens as a 15-point favorite over the Eagles, according to VegasInsider.com.

Grambling has won each game this season by an average of 19 points, though the Tigers only won the SWAC Championship 27–20 last Saturday over Alcorn State

There are certain staples of HBCU football that most fans come to accept. Homecoming ticket prices going for double the cost of a regular season game, bands being perpetually more popular than football teams, missed field goals and extra point attempts, half-empty stadiums for non-rivalry/homecoming games, questionable officiating, and pass-heavy offense. These things we appreciate as fans, because we know the backdrop to many of these elements begins and ends with a lack of resources.

So we go to support our boys and pray that the best of among them can make it to the NFL, all the while mourning the notion the notion that died decades ago of the best football talent in the country no longer wearing our school colors.

But these things also create a unique question: would anyone honestly ever bet real money on a black college football game? If people aren’t spending real money on tickets and licensed merchandise, would they spend it trying to get the under on a SWAC or MEAC football game?

There are plenty of games out there that deviants will study to try and beat Vegas with some insider info from a sparsely-watched non-BCS football product, and that includes HBCU football games. There’s action out there for everyone. But in terms of the MEAC and SWAC keeping up their end of the bargain and delivering two worthy, unofficial HBCU football title games in consecutive years, have the MEAC and SWAC reached a point where they are knocking on the door as a decent football product with crossover appeal to bettors and casual fans alike?

Perhaps. But our reality still makes our football a virtual non-starter for even the craziest or savviest of college football oddsmakers and takers.

Grambling outscored incumbent SWAC champion Alcorn State 27–3 in the second half of the SWAC championship game to win the trip to Atlanta and the televised bowl game. To most fans, that’s a great contest. To football enthusiasts, GSU should’ve never given that much confidence or ground to an uneven Alcorn team playing under first-year head coach Fred McNair.

NCCU has been building something for several yeas, so they only get one caveat to their years-in-the-making greatness; the Eagles’ only real competition over the last three years has been North Carolina A&T. The rest of the MEAC this year? Below .500.

Typical conference standouts Hampton and South Carolina State finished 5–6, and the rest of the conference placed as an also-ran. NCCU’s season and conference championship isn’t tainted by any means, but it gives credence to why Vegas considers Grambling a far better team.

Of course, the game is likely to play out with a 42–38 overtime victory with total combined yards for both teams probably creeping up on 800 by the midpoint of the fourth quarter. But that’s black college football, a brand we’ve come to expect for miscues and miracles all the same.

There’s no way I’d bet on that. But if I were a betting man, I’d take the Eagles.