MEAC, SWAC teams caught in the middle of a vicious pay-for-play cyle

The business of college basketball can be a lucrative one, if you play your cards right. That’s not just true for big-time schools like North Carolina, Duke and UCLA, it’s also true for schools like Champion Baptist and the College of Faith.

These relatively new, non-traditional colleges are pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by playing Division I teams around the country, despite not being a part of the NCAA or even being accredited schools.

Teams in the MEAC and SWAC have had to play these money games during the non-conference season to fund their Division I programs for decades. Now, schools like North Carolina Central and Southern are having to pay these schools to fill out their home schedules.

NCCU coach Levelle Moton talked about the difficulties of finding home opponents:

“We didn’t finish our schedule until mid October of this year,” he said. “Even with that, we had to compromise with things. We’ve contacted pretty much everyone. There aren’t many schools that are willing to come play in our gym in Division I basketball.” 

The only Division I team to agree to a game at NCCU this year was IUPUI, and even they tried to opt out, according to Moton. 

Part of that is because the Eagles are the top team in the MEAC. What low-level Division I team wants to go into NCCU’s gym and use one of its away games — which could instead be a higher-paying guarantee game — to get its butt kicked? The solution, Moton said, is to lose, but that’s obviously not an option. 

“As we’ve gotten better and better, the phone calls have diminished,” Moton said, “We’ve gotten blatant answers from people who say, ‘Heck no, we’ll never play you.'”

NCCU, owners of the Division I’s third-longest home winning streak, has hosted College of Faith (a 123-65 win) and Barber-Scotia (a 108-52 win) and Johnson and Wales (a 101-38 win).

While those games do count in the win column, they are often a loss at the box office. Only 702 fans watched NCCU vs. Johnson and Wales while just 425 people showed up to watch NCCU beat up on Barber-Scotia.

Unlike the big schools, however, HBCUs don’t really have the cash to throw around to these basketball factories. NCCU, for example, is trying to reduce it’s budget deficit from $2.5 million to $1.5 million. And everyone knows South Carolina State’s financial situation.

This is likely a situation that won’t go away for a while.

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