Travis Hunter’s move to an HBCU is just the latest maddening change for the establishment
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NOTICE: Black prep stars’ renewed interest in HBCUs and recent NCAA rule changes are shaking fans of the status quo.
Like prized rookie Travis Hunter, Jackson State University coach Deion Sanders has plenty of nerve.
The nerve of them! They clearly don’t know their place in the billion dollar industrial complex of college football. The best talents ALWAYS come together in the most prominent universities with the highest profiles. Power 5 conferences consider it their birthright to monopolize the cream of the crop. It is a secular tradition, which dates back to the first steps of integration.
Yes, a long time ago (1969) the Texas No.1 played Arkansas No.2 in the “Game of the Century”, with no black players on either lineup. Yes, a week earlier Florida’s all-black A&M beat Tampa virtually all-white in a real breakthrough. And, yes, the turning point by Hollywood measure dates back to 1970; USC, the first fully integrated team to play in Alabama, defeated Bear Bryant’s boys, and the Crimson Tide subsequently revised their admissions policy.
A new custom has taken root throughout the country, including in the backward South. An aggressive and invasive species smothered the fertile soil of the HBCUs that had produced generations of athletes once banned from attending college elsewhere. Given this development, we figured the powerbrokers would be stunned if a school like Jackson State reversed the script and landed a player like Hunter, the nation’s top rookie.
We just didn’t know they would be so shaken up.
Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State are the alma maters of NFL legends Walter Payton and Jerry Rice, respectively. Winston-Salem State and Grambling produced NBA greats Earl Monroe and Willis Reed. However, the glory days of HBCUs are long gone in athletics. Due to their size, resources, and exposure, predominantly white institutions will continue to attract the vast majority of blue-chip black gamers.
But a few recent rookies who could have played anywhere chose the HBCUs. And a growing number of prep stars who wouldn’t have considered HBCUs a few years ago are taking a closer look. Hunter’s decision to dismiss the state of Florida has sparked even more profanity from the establishment, already screaming about other changes to the system over the past year. Now players have rights previously reserved for coaches, like winning sponsorship deals and easily switching campuses, and bosses are pissed off.
With the news of Hunter’s decision dominating on signing day, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney aimed at the relaxed NCAA transfer rules, which allow players to change schools and play immediately. “It’s crazy, it’s really sad, to be honest with you,” he said. Swinney did not give an opinion on his ability and that of his brothers to change schools and coaches right away. We assume he is in favor.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said he wasn’t bothered by the players’ new ability to make money with their personal brand. But it appears critics are “worried” that players are unable to handle compensation or negotiations. “I really hope these kids get all the money they are promised at these schools,” Kiffin said. I’m not saying it’s a false concern, but of course: we hope everyone will honor their commitments.
Recent developments were pretty bad from a management perspective. But a Power 5 school losing Rookie # 1 to an HBCU is blasphemy. Fans of the status quo quickly showed their true colors: fiery orange, raging red and snow white.
Fox Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb called Hunter’s decision “an obvious mistake” not just from a football point of view, but because “anyone would rather be a former UGA, FSU, Texas A&M to get help in the job market.” Fans in Florida state who “liked” Sanders for his past exploits and “liked” Hunter in anticipation began hanging out the two on social media before the ad ended. The day before, FSU coach Mike Norvell signed a contract extension; the next day, fans demanded his dismissal.
But kudos to Norvell for respond like a reasonable adult after Hunter stunned. He called on fans to “respect decisions and celebrate achievements” as athletes “live a childhood dream of signing a scholarship.” Considering how Hunter’s notoriety and value has skyrocketed since choosing Sanders and JSU, this move made good business sense. And, of course, it makes cultural sense, even though Hunter always envisioned himself in the state of Florida. “It’s a dream that is hard to give up” he said in a statement. “But sometimes we are called to step into a future greater than the one we have imagined for ourselves.”
Especially when the powers that be have such a limited imagination about the best recruits and their rightful place.
Award-winning columnist and director of BlackDoor Ventures, Inc., Deron Snyder is a seasoned journalist, stratcomm professional, author and assistant professor. A native of Brooklyn and Alpha of HU-You Know, he resides in the DC metropolis with his wife, Vanessa, mother of their daughters, Sierra and Sequoia. For more information, please visit blackdoorventures.com/deron.
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