HBCU Football Teams Get a Shot at Big Paydays, National Exposure

Article excerpt

The common sports phrase "there's no such thing as a gimme" was never more appropriate than at the beginning of the 2007 college football season. Sports fans around the country were shocked as tiny Appalachian State beat one of the most successful programs in history, the University of Michigan, by a score of 34-32. Going into the September game, Michigan was ranked the fifth best team in the nation.

But with a guaranteed payout of $400,000, many experts say ASU was a winner before the game for simply being on Michigan's schedule. While there haven't been any upsets in the games between HBCU football teams and the major programs, there are a lot more HBCU teams getting the chance to profit their programs even with a loss on the field.

In the first four weeks of this season two HBCU teams played nationally ranked teams for the first time. South Carolina State University played the University of South Carolina, then 17th ranked; and Norfolk State University played Rutgers University, then 13th ranked. South Carolina State received $230,000 from USC, and Norfolk State received $275,000 from Rutgers for the games. Both S.C. State and NSU are members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and earn no money when they play away games with conference members.

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"When I became the athletic director here, I knew that was the direction we had to move in," says Marty Miller of Norfolk State. "Athletics play an important role for the university. Not only did we get a monetary benefit, [but] we were nationally televised and that creates interest and exposure for other areas of the university. …