A Pioneer Bowl Preview

By Bonitta Best
Updated: December 5, 2009

DURHAM — After a year’s hiatus, the Pioneer Bowl is back.

The only NCAA-sanctioned bowl for HBCU’s pits the CIAA against the SIAC – another Division II HBCU conference. Tuskegee, winner of the past three bowls and six of the last nine, will go up against Elizabeth City State Saturday afternoon in Columbia, S.C.

The Vikings (7-3) were selected by the conference office to represent the league after tying for the Eastern Division title with Bowie State and Virginia Union.

The Bulldogs advanced to the championship game by virtue of a coin toss, and Fayetteville State, winners of the West, received a postseason bid. ECSU’s selection has raised eyebrows.

Bowie State (6-5), which was the runner-up, didn’t get picked nor did Shaw, which has the best overall record (8-2) of any team. Even ECSU coach Waverly Tillar said he was somewhat surprised by their selection.

“We thought the runner-up would get the invite,” he said. “But I read the bylaws and the conference can name the school to represent the CIAA. Once we heard that we were going to go, excitement was in the air.”

Shaw coach Darrell Asberry has a different take on the selection process.

“Am I ticked off?

Doggone right I’m ticked off,” he said. “We win eight games and didn’t get in the playoffs; then, we don’t even get selected by our own conference. I don’t think it was right to do those kids like that.”

“I don’t care about a bowl, but it’s for the kids.”

The Vikings have a tall order. First, the players have been out of commission as far as conditioning for several weeks, while the Golden Tigers last week defeated Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) Alabama State in the annual Turkey Day Classic.

TU (8-2), which won the SIAC regular season title for the fourth straight year, is ranked 14th in the American Football Coaches Association poll. The Golden Tigers will be making their eighth appearance in the Pioneer Bow; ECSU its first.

“They [players] felt that it was over and adrenalin had stopped flowing,” Tillar said. “Now, it’s time to re-motivate them. It’s worse than summer camp. It will be tough getting them into the working mode for this weekend, but I think we’ll be able to do it.”

Notes: In the last Pioneer Bowl, TU defeated Virginia Union 58-51 in 2007. The last CIAA team to win the Pioneer Bowl was Shaw in ’04 – a 30-28 victory over the Golden Tigers.