By Bonitta Best
A full slate of HBCU football is this weekend, beginning Thursday night, with approximately 40 games either streamed or broadcast on a network.
Winston-Salem State and Central State fans can watch their teams live on the NFL Network Sept. 4 at 4 p.m. in the Black College Hall of Fame Classic. ESPN’s hit show “First Take” will broadcast from the event and the Pro Football HOF is paying both schools’ expenses.
N.C. Central vs. N.C. A&T
The Aggie-Eagle Classic is back on Labor Day weekend.
One of the best rivalries in all of college sports is celebrating its 100th anniversary at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Eagles are looking to break a four-game losing streak.
The contest is no longer a conference game since Aggie football is playing its last season in the Big South Conference before moving over to the Colonial Athletic Association next season. But does anyone care?
“It doesn’t matter what conference they’re in,” NCCU coach Trei Oliver said on the MEAC teleconference. “This is going to be a great game to play in a great venue. It’s also going to be physical. Whoever wins up front wins the game. …Bigs is where it starts.
Oliver looked ecstatic as he described how healthy the Eagles are for the first time since taking over the program.
“Nothing against them (A&T), but the last two years we were beat up,” he said. “It feels good to be healthy as a team. I like our chances.”
Thirteen Eagles will be going “home” to play in front of family and friends. Many attended Carolina Panther games as a kid and now will be playing on that same field. Redshirt senior Jessie Malit can relate.
“I would go to Panther games and be in the nosebleed seats as a child. To be able to play on the field is a special opportunity,” he said. “We’re Panther fans, we grew up around the Panthers, and it’s a great opportunity for the other players who grew up in Charlotte.”
A&T coach Sam Washington is also optimistic. The Aggies were picked to win the conference after going 5-6 last season, however Hampton and Monmouth left the BSC for the CAA this season.
“Offseason I thought was one of the best I’ve seen in quite some time,” Washington said at his press conference. “We’re bigger, faster and stronger than we were a year ago.”
The Eagles host Winston-Salem State Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.
St. Augustine’s vs. Tusculum
Coach David Bowser vowed at the CIAA Media Day that he would not be the first speaker on the stage ever again. (First means you were picked to finish last.)
The Falcons begin their season two days earlier with a Thursday night contest at Tusculum in Greeneville, Tennessee. St. Aug’s has never defeated the Pioneers since reinstating football 20 years ago.
Defensive tackle and graduate student Marcus Davis is the “old man” of a still young team that will be tested against a team that went 5-6 last season.
St. Aug’s will have a few extra days before its home opener against Limestone University Sept. 10 at 1 p.m.
Shaw vs. Wingate
No coach is on the hot seat more this season than Adrian Jones.
Jones’ job is not in jeopardy, but his reputation as a head coach could be if the Bears come up short of a division title again after six seasons.
Jones said Shaw has all the ingredients to bring a title back to the university for the first time since 2010. The Bears need a better showing against Wingate Saturday than last season’s 30-7 spanking to quiet critics.
“We have to be great on offense, defense and special teams,” said Jones who has never won a season opener as head coach. “We have to play a perfect game to win.”
The theme of the game is the Garnet & White Game. Shaw travels to Wayne (Mich.) State next Saturday for a 6 p.m. contest.