College athletics is an extension of Wall Street.

It’s gray-haired college presidents, athletic directors, conference head honchos swinging deals with sponsors, advertisers and even representatives of TV networks to put schools and leagues in the best possible position to make the most money as possible.


Being successful on Wall Street is about having the knack to read the market to make effective financial decisions. When to strike. When to invest. When to play it safe.

Morgan State athletic director Floyd Kerr confirmed that his fellow suits within the MEAC have decided to pull out of the FCS playoffs to partner with the SWAC in participating in a postseason game starting in 2015.

Citing a “climate of change” within in NCAA’s structure and noting that all of members of the conference are LRIs (limited resource institutions), Kerr indicated the primary obligation for the conference was to be able to adequately fund its athletic programs.

“All of us operate at deficits and we have to solve these financial issues because our institutions are not funding us at the levels that we can remain competitive,” Kerr said. “We have to figure out ways to better fund our programs without taxing the students at our institutions or the general funds of our institutions, which are already under tremendous fire to increase enrollments, grow revenue and graduate students.”

For many, the MEAC no longer sending it’s champion to the playoffs will be a shock to their systems,  which has been strung along for so long believing that schools were supposed to be focused on winning national championships.

Florida A&M was the last HBCU to win an FCS title. That was in 1978.

No MEAC or SWAC school has come close since. First round playoff losses have become commonplace and somewhat expected.

There is simply no upside in participating in the FCS playoffs. Schools don’t receive a bowl-like payout for starters.

In fact, Towson reportedly lost $250,000 after being seduced into chasing a championship.

Schools that wish to host a playoff game must bid minimum of $30,000. A second round home playoff game costs $40,000.

The MEAC and SWAC participants in this ESPN-created marriage will allegedly bank $1 million for each conference.

How can the FCS playoffs be a more lucrative economic option?

It can’t when the nobody cares about the FCS playoffs. I don’t care about it.  Football crazed Americans don’t. Twitter doesn’t. ESPN, which broadcasts the games, fails to promote the contests like they matter much.

The network is, however, feeding constant coverage of the bigger, more important College Football Playoff.

After then FCS member Appalachian State beat No. 5 Michigan in 2007, the team immediately became the darlings of the sports world.

App. State was on cover of the following week’s Sports Illustrated.

Columnists at Yahoo! Sports and ESPN gave them all sorts of shine in print and online.

The university reportedly saw an increase in enrollment inquiries and a sports apparel shop carrying ASU gear reported that sales were seven times the norm.

This was a football program that was the reigning FCS national champion at the time, mind you.

ASU football was smothered with more attention for one win in a regular season game than any wins it got in playoff games.

To put this further into perspective, the 2013 FCS title game between North Dakota State and Sam Houston State drew a 0.7 TV rating.

The Beef O’Brady Bowl (real name, no gimmick) between a pair of bad FBS schools got a 1.3 TV rating.

This year’s Bayou Classic, a game played in the middle of a Saturday afternoon featuring Grambling State and Southern, pulled a 1.0 rating on NBC.

While HBCU football has a niche following, ESPN is looking to fill time slots during the meaningless bowl season.

An HBCU postseason game fulfills that need, provides a different football vibe and attracts the interest of a diverse audience.

In exchange, schools get paid and three hours of advertising from the premiere sports network in the world.

That seems like a fair trade.

Intercollegiate sport is all about generating unholy gobs of cash at almost no expense. That is the whole point of this exercise. It is why the College Football Playoff has made the Rose Bowl a stepping stone to a more important game.

It explains why Maryland and Rutgers are in the Big Ten, Texas has it’s own network and a school can pay a coach an NFL salary to work with amateurs.

These are investments just like the ones made on Wall Street every day.

HBCUs have been bleeding more money than it makes lately. Some have had to rob Peter to pay Paul to make ends meet.

If black colleges want to survive and thrive, everyone associated with these institutions should be on board with this move.

Kendrick Marshall
Editor for HBCU Sports, award-winning journalist, and a graduate of Jackson State University.

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15 Comments

  1. The HBCU conferences pulling out of the FCS post-season is a good decision; however, further examination is required to determine if they should pull out of the NCAA all together. Blatant changes in the NCAA Alignment (Big 5) coupled with the looming pay-for-play shift in collegiate athletics is a sign of a pending money grab that until now has been hiding behind a thinly veiled sheet.

    HBCUs haven’t been the only programs expected to make due with the trickle of cash off the back of the money truck. Predominantly white college programs have been shunned and should consider pulling out of the NCAA structure as well. When schools like TCU, Tulane, and Boise State had insanely good years it upset the apple cart. After all neither of them were from one of the power conferences and organizers feared a drop in revenue had they reached the BCS Championship game.

    Then there is the extraordinary case of the now defunct University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers football program. At a time where no fewer than five schools in neighboring Georgia started football programs (Georgia State, Mercer, LaGrange, Shorter, Rheinhardt, and Kennesaw State), the Alabama Board of Trustees decided it was in the best interest of the school to shut down the Blazers program in the midst of a turn around.

    It’s time to take off the Rose-colored glasses and see the NCAA for what it really is and not what it’s literature says. Over the last ten or so years the NCAA has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to Big 5 conference members while steadily hatching a plan to exclude all FCS schools from sharing in the spoils by way of guaranteed pay games. One might be tempted to say thanks Appalachian State except this plan was hatched long before they mashed Michigan at The Big House.

    Football isn’t the only sport where this is going to happen. The NCAA bought out the NIT Tourney specifically to provide a respite for what they consider lower tier programs. A little more than a decade ago the NCAA expanded the tournament field to eliminate upstart 16th seeds by way of a play-in game. The last MEAC-SWAC school to receive a tourney seed higher than 16th was 15th seeded Texas Southern I believe (but it’s early so if I’m wrong Google it). Doing away with automatic berths gives the larger conference affiliated schools more slots at the Dance and subsequently more of the revenue.

    To make a long story really short just ask yourselves one question, what has the NCAA done for our schools lately.

    1. WELL SAID!
      The NCAA has never done anything but make money for the larger schools and themselves while smaller school have to scrounge and scrape to survive. The trend is getting out of hand as the NCA continues to muddy the waters with it’s endless red tape and silly regulations..

  2. I agree with Jake and Pat about the NCAA. The recent developments in allowing the Big 5 football and basketball conferences more autonomy is a message to everyone else that you might as well hang it up. Further, the “college union” established by some athletes including Black college football does not favor small conferences or those in non-monetary sports. It would be interesting if more colleges brought away from the NCAA and the sports channel to see what waves would be made. As for the MEAC and SWAC having their own postseason game, it would take individuals who can market the event and obtain the attendance numbers, viewership and sponsorship needed to make it worthwhile. Too often, the administrators have not put enough effort or resources into HBCU sports to produce a quality product. If the same attention is paid to HBCU sports as it is for parties, band, and other function, then they will get a strong following.

  3. This article is clearly biased. “No MEAC or SWAC school has come close since.” FAMU made it to the quarter-finals in 1998 and the semi-finals in 1999. For us, the playoffs is apart of our tradition and most Rattlers will not support leaving the playoffs. The top MEAC team who doesn’t make the playoffs is the team that should participate in this bowl game.

  4. This media source must be a SWAC following publication. People who follow the MEAC have a different outlook. We believe in being included in the playoff system. We look at this game as a throwback to Segregation. The SWAC gave up their bid years ago and where has it gotten them? No where! Now the SWAC wants to bring down the MEAC which to date has exceeded the SWAC across the board. This put Black College Football in it’s own sub-division and makes recruiting that more difficult. I don’t support the game at all.

  5. Given the present & future institutional challenges that HBCUs are facing; the evolving economic and structural landscape of NCAA football; and the losing proposition- fiscally and otherwise- that the FCS playoffs presents, I support the MEAC & SWAC for agreeing to play this bowl game….The notion, as some have expressed recently, that a SWAC-MEAC bowl game would be some sort of “Chitlin’ Bowl” or a “throw back to segregation” is unfortunate and reveals a deep seeded inferiority complex that some have with respect to HBCUs and black people in general; only an individual who believes that black people/black institutions must be “legitimized” via a paradigm created by white folks would view a MEAC-SWAC BOWL Game as anything other than an opportunity to capitalize on and highlight the unique history and tradition that HBCU football, in particular, and HBCUs, in general, represent. The fact that ESPN is willing to invest $2million to make this Bowl happen is proof positive that the MEAC-SWAC brands- however challenged they may be now- occupy a unique and viable position in the college athletics landscape. Trust and believe, if ESPN was willing to pony-up millions of dollars for a CAA-Patriot League Bowl game, those conferences would jump at the opportunity; however, the reality is those conferences don’t have the history and tradition and national fan base to support such a venture…College football has always been centered around bowl games, historically due to the pageantry and traditional conference rivalries and more recently b/c of the revenue they generate. If the MEAC/SWAC can get a piece of the bowl game pie, they should do so. The FBS did not replace the bowl games with the FBS Playoff System. The FBS found a way to incorporate the playoff into the bowl game system and they did so in a way that preserves the popularity- and more importantly to the FBS heads- the profitability of the bowl system. The challenge for the MEAC/SWAC is how to make their bowl game an event that is economically profitable and an experience that is befitting of HBCU history and tradition. This bowl game is actually an opportunity for the MEAC/SWAC to think creatively, distinguish/expand the HBCU brand and actually be leaders in college football. If the MEAC/SWAC can pull this bowl game off successfully, don’t be surprised if some of the other FCS conferences try to emulate. Chasing a faux national championship that few people know about and even fewer people respect is pointless and fruitless. The NCAA & FBS obviously do not care or respect FCS football b/c if they did they would invest some of the hundreds of millions of dollars they generate into promoting FCS football. It remains to be seen if the FCS playoff model is sustainable but even if it is, it is likely to remain largely inconsequential because the reality is: NO ONE CARES about the FCS playoffs outside of the few small schools in small and/or remote markets that participate. For schools serious about football, the FCS has become a stepping stone (see ODU, Appalachian St., Georgia Southern, etc.) to the FBS, i.e., a chance to play in a bowl game. The good football programs that remain in the FCS do so b/c it is consistent with their institutional models, e.g., certain schools in the Patriot League, the CAA and the Ivy League (which doesn’t participate in the FCS playoffs). None of the programs in the MEAC/SWAC have the institutional capacity and/or alumni fan base to aspire to the FBS in the foreseeable future and that is fine. Given the current fiscal climate and challenges in higher education that affect HBCUs more acutely, these schools must be more prudent about how to expend resources and must make decisions in athletics (and otherwise) that are consistent with their overall institutional missions. If the MEAC/SWAC think creatively and execute this bowl game well, it can generate significant revenue, be a recruiting tool for MEAC/SWAC schools as well as promote the “HBCU Brand” as well as be a far better post-season experience for the student-athletes and other stakeholders than the FCS playoffs have or ever will be.

    1. Agreed!

      Those who believe a SWAC-MEAC bowl game would be considered as some chit’lin circuit game clearly don’t know their HBCU football history. Am I the only one who remembers the Heritage Bowl? Yes. We need a post-season bowl game and it should be held at an indoor venue such as the Superdome in New Orleans or the Georgia Dome in Atlanta every year. We need all of the revenue creating and recruitment tools we can get.

  6. Lets see! One million dollars divided by 10 (SWAC schools) equals $100,000 per school. OK. One million dollars divided by 11 (MEAC schools) equals $90,000-plus. OK. If the participating school gets a double-share (11 to SWAC, 12 to MEAC) that figure is reduced. If the 1 million includes travel, lodging, food, etc. the number (per school) is further reduced. Make the number $5 million per conference and it would make more sense, more of a difference and have much more of an impact on athletic budgets. Don’t do it for peanuts!!!!

    1. I agree that 1 million dollars is not a lot of money to ultimately be divided among each conference’s member schools. You say “don’t do it for peanuts” and that sounds good but what is the alternative? Continue losing money (and games) via the FCS playoffs? 80-90K may not sound like a lot, but for MEAC & SWAC schools it could be the difference between running a deficit on the athletic budget and breaking even. You threw out 5 million, which, again, sounds nice, but the MEAC-SWAC are not in position to command that kind of payout (at least not yet); however, if the conferences can get together, put together a great BOWL experience, bring in some good sponsors and implement a great marketing strategy, this year could set the tone for a more lucrative payout from ESPN and/or other sponsors down the line. The point is, we have to look beyond the 1 million payout for this year. We have to be ambitious and forward thinking; the idea should be to create a must-attend event that goes beyond just the game but includes related events that attract people and generate revenue.

      1. But we don’t know how much schools make off the FCS playoffs. All we know is how much you have to bid to host. The author presented only cost information, nothing about revenues, TV, gate, or otherwise. And as Lut Williams points out, he then deceptively compares watermelons to grapes by dropping the $1 million conference figure. Yes, $80-90k per school is real money, but it’s not the home-run the author makes it out to be, especially when we’re provided zero information about the revenue side of the FCS playoff equation.

  7. It is sad that with all of the history of Hall of Fame players, current media and marketing experts, HBCUs have a difficult time recruiting players.

    My primary concern is how leaving the FCS playoff system will impact recruiting

    Teams that excell in the FCS playoffs invariably send more athletes to the NFL then team that never make a playoff appearance. HBCU football should be able to produce NFL prospects in a similar manner.

    In order to develop a strong program, you must have good talent, good coaching and a competitive schedule.

    HBCUs need to compete against PWIs during the season AND during the post season (see Tenn State) to remain competitive

  8. […] Each conference will bank a $1 million payout, which means this game is much more lucrative than a Playoff appearance. That’s $100,000 for each SWAC team, and nearly $91,000 for each MEAC team. If a team wants to host a first round FCS Playoff game, they need to submit a minimum bid to the NCAA of at least $30,000. […]

  9. […] Each conference will bank a $1 million payout, which means this game is much more lucrative than a Playoff appearance. That’s $100,000 for each SWAC team, and nearly $91,000 for each MEAC team. If a team wants to host a first round FCS Playoff game, they need to submit a minimum bid to the NCAA of at least $30,000. […]

  10. […] Each conference will bank a $1 million payout, which means this game is much more lucrative than a Playoff appearance. That’s $100,000 for each SWAC team, and nearly $91,000 for each MEAC team. If a team wants to host a first round FCS Playoff game, they need to submit a minimum bid to the NCAA of at least $30,000. […]

  11. […] Each conference will bank a $1 million payout, which means this game is much more lucrative than a Playoff appearance. That’s $100,000 for each SWAC team, and nearly $91,000 for each MEAC team. If a team wants to host a first round FCS Playoff game, they need to submit a minimum bid to the NCAA of at least $30,000. […]

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