A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Black College Football Needs A Premiere Bowl Game For Themselves
SAN ANTONIO – Okay the bowl match ups are now set for our enjoyment but do we not see one single match up for the traditional black colleges. On the outset of the world of college football, I know this isn’t on anyone’s radar and maybe for the most part it shouldn’t be. However, I firmly believe that it may be time for the Black community to seriously start considering how to put our own brand of football in front of the American public beyond the Bayou Classic that was seen on NBC. I propose that it is now high time for the Heritage Bowl to put together and ran like a first class organization for the HBCU schools.
In doing some research, I have found out that the website domain name is up for sale. Now I don’t have $1,300 but I wish I had it. I would love to be able to start spearheading the effort. I’d spearhead it because I think that being in this business, I’d know what to bring to the table as far as entertainment and value in a sporting event. So here is my submission as to how I would bring the Heritage Bowl back to life, how I would get the bills paid and how the game would garner the national exposure that many other bowls would get.
THIS WOULD BE THE ‘BLACK’ NATIONAL TITLE GAME IN FOOTBALL First of all, the Heritage Bowl wouldn’t just be the Black college bowl game being resurrected. This would be the national title game for those programs in the Div. I-AA ranking system. Now I’m not slighting anyone from the SIAC, CIAA and other smaller conferences that have Black schools that have football programs. One of the criterions that I will stipulate is that the school will have to be 1-AA and that’s because of the financial aspect of the bowl game. So where does that leave us? That leaves us with a possible match up between a SWAC school and a MEAC school.
So how would my selection committee or I be able to select the most deserving schools for this bowl game? It’s very simple; the top two teams go to the bowl game. There are some exceptions to that rule and that is employed when schools from these conferences are in the 1-AA playoff field. In that case then the second best team behind the team that is in that playoff tournament is selected for this bowl game.
Now with trying to make this game have some type of national prominence, I would have set up a program that spends all year putting this game together, taking care of logistics and also garnering sponsorships. Yet before I do that, I would have to find a place that would be conducive to being the home of this bowl game and embodies the true black college football experience. I don’t want a college campus for this game. I need a city that would be very much in favor of always playing host to this game and the pageantry that will be a part of it. Right now I cannot come up with a city that would fit that bill.
So for now let’s put the city aside and focus on how sponsorships would be garnered for this event. I remember being a part of a game called the Alamo City Classic; a game that came one time to San Antonio and do African Americans put on still being talked about as being one of the more horrendous events. Now I was on the opposite end of that game because instead of being the one who was bringing it in, I was a part of the group of individuals who were trying to not let this game be an embarrassment to the community at large. The goal of sponsorships is to not only get the bills paid for the game and subsequent events but also it is to help that corporation get the benefit of new clientele. One of the challenges that I would want to tackle is to actually make sure that this bowl game gets a title sponsor that is an African American company or is a company that contributes heavily to the causes for this community. And I want to get a step further in looking at sponsorships. One of the biggest problems that I see in black sports is the fact that rarely are these games even aired successfully on media outlets that are specifically targeted at the African American community. The other challenge that I would want to tackle in the realm of sponsorships would be getting Radio One, TV One, Urban Networks and Reach Media (Tom Joyner) to be an integral part of the success of this game by being the broadcasting partners.
A WINNING GAME PLAN THAT WOULD HELP THE SCHOOLS INVOLVED Now bowl games aren’t worth their weight in salt if there isn’t some type of payoff for the schools involved. What I would try to implement is an endowment program that is two fold in its duty. First of all I’d want this bowl game to donate money to the two conferences to help all the schools that are affiliated. Then the second level would be the payout to each school that is participating that is ‘their’ reward for reaching this game.
Why would I set up something that could potentially cause acrimony amongst school administrators? Because I feel that the schools would recognize the fact that getting the big payday means that the football program has achieved a standard of success. To begin with the payouts for the first few years would not be stellar numbers. $1 million payouts to two teams would be hard to attain but if contributions to the general fund would put the combined payout to maybe $300,000 and then maybe another $200,000 for the two schools would be within reason. Now getting to those types of numbers is the challenging part and probably the most difficult of all the logistical issues that are out there.
So let’s say that we get the magic number of $500,000 in monies for the two schools and conferences. The next problem is to schedule practices, plan events and bringing the ‘heritage’ to the two school teams into play. A college recruiting expo would be in order during the week. There would be a battle of the bands as well as the Greek step show. More importantly there would be a banquet for the players in which those who have attained academic success would be honored for their accomplishments as well.
MAKING THE GAME A PART OF THE COMMUNITY Finally above all, I believe that the success of this bowl game would hinge on how successful it is in being a part of the community that it resides in. No matter what city that this game could be in, the main premise is to ensure that the ‘heritage’ of the African American community in that city is maintained, revered and extolled for everyone to see. That means making Black businesses a prominent partner in the success of this game. It means continually enhancing the experience of the game itself for the local patrons so that they feel that this game is a part of them. Believe it or not but there are a lot of businesses that are African American flavored that would love to support such a game.
I know that this may be a pipe dream of sorts but I do believe that if the right people come into play, the Heritage Bowl game that was once held in Atlanta, GA could be brought back and strengthened into something that is both prideful and also long lasting. As I said earlier, some days the wishful thinking is that I would love to be the catalyst of bringing such a game about to an audience that deserves to have the same type of national exposure and also national resources like everyone else. There is systematic problem for this particular community if there are not two Black college football teams fighting for their own national title. At one time the Heritage Bowl was supposed to be that but then somehow it went away from that concept. I’d like to see someone or help someone bring this bowl game back and make it better than it ever was one day.