Sports Odds and Ends
This upcoming season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball teams will play four HBCU schools and an independent Black university at Williams Arena.
The Gophers men will open their season against Bethune-Cookman (Nov. 6), and fellow SWAC member Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 21). The Gophers women will host Grambling from the SWAC (Dec. 13), MEAC member Norfolk St. (Nov. 29), and Black independent university, Chicago State (Nov. 12).
Over the years, visiting HBCUs and majority-Black schools were mainly disrespected by local media, unfairly painting a picture that these teams are easy pickings for the home team. Historically Minnesota has dominated Black schools: (MBB 9-0, SWAC 8-1, MEAC 4-0, WBB 3-0, Chicago State 6-3, SWAC 2-1).
The Minnesota men last season were 2-0, defeating Pine Bluff by 16 points and Chicago State by three points. The women won their only matchup, a 105-54 romp over Chicago State.
“I’m happy that the U of M are playing HBCUs,” said WCCO’s Henry Lake, a Morehouse College grad whose parents both went to Black colleges. But Lake also admitted that there is local media bias when it comes to Black schools visiting The Barn.
“We want to be extremely competitive when we play the Power Five schools,” said Alcorn State WBB Coach Nate Kilbert, whose Braves non-conference slate includes road games at Nebraska, Baylor and Mississippi.
Furthermore, the SWAC isn’t a pushover conference. This was the consensus during a recent media day attended virtually by the MSR.
“I think our coaches are all on track and they understand what it’s going to take for us to get that national publicity,” added Jackson State WBB Coach Tomekia Reed. “Our teams are not pushovers. We are preparing for a very tough preseason schedule as we always do.”
It’s also no secret that Black schools in both football and basketball schedule “guaranteed games” contracted to play at a bigger school for an agreed amount. It’s a way of life for HBCU athletics.
They often feel forced to play larger schools in order to make ends meet. Their athletic budgets and revenues are a fraction of the Power Five programs. But the practice of playing small schools isn’t limited to just Black schools.
“We’re going to have to play these money games,” admitted Alabama State MBB Coach Tony Madlock, who added, “You got to try to find some games that you have a chance of winning.”
Added Bethune-Cookman MBB Coach and AD Reggie Theus, “A big part of our non-conference schedule is almost dictated to us because of the number of guaranteed money games that we have to play. So, we play a number of [non-conference] games to meet those financial requirements and obligations.”
The MSR plans to run in a later edition a preview story on Theus’ Wildcats, when they play Minnesota next month.
One thing’s for sure—the SWAC is one tough basketball league and deserves its respect. “We’re good enough to beat anybody,” said Grambling Men’s Coach Donte Jackson.