By Elliott Robinson, Esq.
Updated: October 12, 2007

It appears that Billy Joe, head coach of Florida A&M (FAMU), has incredible powers of persuasion. Approximately one year ago, Coach Joe indicated that it would be almost impossible for an HBCU to win the 1-AA national championship without having white players on their team. Since then, it appears to have become the MEAC company line. In a recent article by Rick Nelson of The Post and Courier, several MEAC football coaches were quoted as saying that they intended or were currently recruiting white players for their program.

Recent quotes on the subject Coach Ray Petty of Howard was quoted as saying, “We have to get into the Midwest and different cultures and bring some different guys in here. You’re not going to be able to do it anymore going with just black kids.”

Coach Buddy Pough of South Carolina State said, “We’ve allowed ourselves to be considered just a black college. When you limit yourself that way, you limit the people you touch. There are plenty of great athletes who are white and who maybe didn’t get a chance to play elsewhere. We want them to know this is a place they can come and be successful.”

Coach Billy Joe, “We just don’t get the great black kids anymore because of integration. The proof is in the pudding: In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, it was nothing for a kid from a black college to be drafted No. 1 in the NFL draft. Last year only one kid was drafted out of our conference, and he was drafted dead last. In the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, those great black players at Florida, Miami and Florida State would have been on the FAMU campus.”

Points to Ponder I’ve thought about this subject for quite some time and I’ve looked at it from a number of different points of view. Here are my points to ponder.

1) The argument that all the great black players are going to big I-A programs is irrelevant because HBCUs are not competing against big I-A programs. HBCUs are competing against smaller I-A and I-AA programs; therefore, they shouldn’t need the “best” recruits to compete at the I-AA level because their competitors don’t have those players either.

2) There’s a perception that a plethora of “great white athletes” are being overlooked and unrecruited by I-A programs. The best white players are going to I-A programs, just like the best black players are going to I-A programs. Consequently, that leaves a pool of good black and white players for all I-AA programs to recruit from.

3) The MEAC coaches give the impression that Division I football is all black and therefore, a lot of “great white players” are getting overlooked, but that’s simply not the case. According to the NCAA Student-Athlete Ethnicity Report 2000-2001, Division I football participation was as follows: 48.7% of Division I-A football players are white 54.3% of Division I-AA football players are white 40.3% of Division I-A football players are black 38.5% of Division I-AA football players are black If 48.7% of all Division I-A football players are white, where is this incredible surplus of “great white players” going to come from? It appears to me that they’ll be in that 48.7% attending the I-A school, with the “great black players” and therefore not helping any I-AA program.

4) When Billy Joe was winning national championships at Central St. (NAIA) and FAMU won the first ever I-AA National Championship, I’m fairly certain there weren’t many non-Black players on their respective teams. Therefore, history doesn’t bear out the argument that white players are needed for an HBCU to win on the national level.

5) The sheer number of MEAC, SWAC and Tennessee St. (TSU) players in the NFL shows without a shadow of a doubt that lack of talent is not the issue at HBCUs. The argument regarding the decline of NFL draft picks is not as cogent as one would think. The real barometer for determining a conference’s talent level is the number of players on NFL opening day rosters. For the 2002 NFL season, the MEAC, SWAC and TSU accounted for fifty (50) players on NFL rosters.

Parting Questions If each coach were to answer these questions, I believe they would find the reasons for their inability to compete on the I-AA national level. Unfortunately for them, the color of a player’s skin won’t be an answer.

1) How much is your recruitment budget?

(a) If your program plays in an annual classic game, how many players from that city do you recruit on an annual basis? (e.g. FAMU and TSU play annually in Atlanta. How many players from the Atlanta area are they each recruiting annually?) 2) Where are your largest alumni bases?

(a) Do you recruit heavily in those areas?

(b) Do you have a mechanism in place that allows for alumni referrals of players?

3) How many members of your football staff are full-time and paid?

(a) How many are paid?

(b) How many are full-time?

(c) Are your coaches required to attend a minimum number of off-season coaching clinics?

(d) If so, how many?

(e) Does the school cover the costs?

(f) If not, why not?

(g) If they’re not required to attend any clinics, why not?

4) How much instruction time is allocated and given per player, pre-season, during season?

(a) Do you have to share your practice field with another sport?

(b) If so, how does this affect player instruction?

5) Are you pleased with your weight room?

(a) Do you have a full-time strength and conditioning coach?

Not a football coach who also does a weight program, but a full-time, certified strength and conditioning coach.

(b) Do you have strength and conditioning coach who is dedicated to the football program or is he/she shared with the rest of the athletic department?

6) Do you have an annual football camp?

7) Are your games broadcast on the radio, via computer web cast, and/or television?

(a) What markets are you reaching?

(b) Do you have a coaches’ show?

(c) If so, what markets are you reaching?

(d) Do you have a football website that is updated regularly?

(e) Is it interactive and recruit/ fan friendly?

8) Does your school have a full time marketing/ sponsorship person in charge of only athletics?

(a) Does you school have a full time athletic booster/ fundraising staff?

(b) Does your booster club bring in enough revenue to endow scholarships, assist with staffing costs and/or significantly upgrade facilities?

Final Thought Bringing white players into a broken situation will only mean you have white and black players in a broken situation.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Drop me a line at and I’ll compile them in my next article. Please include your name (initials are accepted) and city. Until next time, take care and God bless.

Elliott Robinson, Esq. is an Atlanta based journalist and collegiate legal consultant. He can be heard on sports radio programs in the Mid-Atlantic region and XM Satellite Radio (Friday evenings on “The Power” – channel 169). HBCU Happenings can be found at,,, and

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