Nearly a week after not a single HBCU school was selected to the FCS playoffs, one respected MEAC coach whose team was left out of the 24-team field said the conference to needs to do more to ensure the league is represented in postseason play beyond the Celebration Bowl.
“It’ll be interesting to see, at this point, what happens in our league,” South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough said earlier this week. “We’ve just got so many good teams now, and not to have anybody make the playoffs is a little bit of a downer.”
Bethune-Cookman (9-2), North Carolina A&T (9-2) and North Carolina Central (8-3) all finished the regular season with a share of the MEAC championship, but did not receive an at-large bid.
North Carolina A&T will play the winner of the SWAC championship game in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 19.
The playoff selection committee did receive information on MEAC co-champion Bethune-Cookman and Prairie View A&M (8-2) of the SWAC for at-large consideration, according to selection committee chairman Mark Wilson. Wilson said factors such as the respective teams’ strength of schedule and “total body of work” hurt their cases for at-large bids.
“I thought, at least, Bethune-Cookman would get in,” Pough said. “But we’ve got to figure this out and figure out what the next course of action will be for us. The league is improving and we need to find out what’s best for us to do for more opportunities for postseason play.”
The longtime SCSU coach implied that the MEAC giving up its automatic qualifying status to participate in the Celebration Bowl might have hurt the conference’ s chance to have two or more teams playing beyond November.
“We’ve caught ourselves trying to get more opportunities for our member schools and, for all practical purposes, we have gotten less,” Pough said. “Sure, we’ve got the Celebration Bowl, but it kind of made us look like we were not participating in the playoffs.
“We should be trying to put teams into both. But when we don’t have an AQ we don’t have a member on the committee, a lobbyist for our cause. As we figure this out, we’ve got to come up with ideas to solve it.”
“I just can’t see us sitting here every year, knowing that 11 of us are all playing for one Celebration Bowl spot; that would be disappointing to each of us,” Pough said.