Yesterday, in a sort of dull day in the college football universe, UCLA and a pair of HBCUs provided big news. The Bruins agreed to home games against Alabama State in 2022 and North Carolina Central in 2023. While this seems like another irrelevant headline of another cupcake game, there is more about these games than meet the eye.
While this has not been too often a trend to catch the eye of many, HBCUs have long tried to connect with the West. In the early 2000s, HBCU classics emerged in San Diego and Las Vegas. While those games were short-lived, the idea was ambitious. Remnants of the idea of western games returned in the late 2010s through UNLV.
UNLV hosted HBCUs every year from 2016-2018, including their infamous upset loss to Howard, the largest point-spread upset in history. The agreement was beneficial to not only both teams but both communities. Howard’s band played at a high school game the day before and the university representatives shared information at the said game. Las Vegas, being the tourist destination it is, recognized the draw of a finely tuned HBCU band, and paid half of Howard’s guarantee payment.
Whether the same type of agreement occurs in Los Angeles, the brand exposure opportunities are immense. These games have a chance to increase the profile of HBCU sports, especially riding on the coattails of events like Makur Maker’s decision to go to Howard.
HBCUs have the biggest brands and followings in FCS football, with the SWAC leading the FCS in attendance and the MEAC placing second. They have a chance to take the tradition and pageantry of HBCU football to a previously unreached crowd. If all goes right, the appetite for HBCU football in the West may grow.
Fine, Let’s Talk About the Bands
While HBCU football is more than merely bands, I would be amiss if I did not at least mention them. This added element makes these paycheck games more alluring than the average game an FBS school would play against a regional FCS foe.
On top of this, many Power Five schools have simply refused to play their local HBCUs. LSU scheduled their first games against Southern and Grambling just this Summer despite LSU being 10 MILES AWAY FROM SOUTHERN. Additionally, Arkansas scheduled Arkansas Pine-Bluff for the first time this past Summer.
While the news of UCLA’s additions may seem small, there is good reason to believe this could cause some ripples in both the HBCU and Western football world. Games like these two would give intersectional games a new flavor.