Digging for dirt
Do you think Mo Williams would say that he’s taken on a “dirt” job at Alabama State University? He’ll be coaching inside of a 7,400 seat stadium at the Acadome. It’ll be a sellout for the Alabama A&M game and a few other games during the year. Pencil that in. If Trace Young and some of the other heralded players in Williams’ first recruiting class turn out to be legit, it might be a sell-out every single night. And what if Mikey Williams, the no. 3 prospect in the 2023 class, decides to attend Alabama State? (They are on his top ten list) That’s a sell-out season in the books. ASU will be trending on Twitter for every game. That’s a path to the NBA that comes right through Montgomery, Alabama.
Dwyane Wade couldn’t school you about HBCUs because he doesn’t know, he doesn’t care to know. Which is fine, they are called Historically Black Colleges and Universities, not Mandatory Black Colleges and Universities. Again, we aren’t monolithic, there are layers to the black dysphoria. We do what we do.
None of these arguments about facilities and television games really apply to the bonafide stars. Morant and Williamson could have gone anywhere and still made it to the league because they have transcendent talent. If Makur Maker goes to Howard and dominates, his NBA trajectory isn’t going to change. Especially if he leads Howard to an NCAA Tournament victory or two. ESPN has the rights to these games already, they can broadcast more if they would like.
Power to the players
Mikey Williams could engineer the HBCU version of the Fab Five 3.0 (don’t forget the Beetles) and shift an area of power in college basketball. Can you imagine a trio of four to five star recruits all selecting the same HBCU surrounded by a host of complementary players? Five years ago I couldn’t. Hell, last year I couldn’t, but our entire world is different now. Anything could happen.
When Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson all decided to attend Michigan University in the early 90s, they completely upset the apple cart. Michigan was already a great program having won a national championship in 1989, but how many documentaries have been made on the good ole days of Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson? The Fab Five showed us that the strength of players’ talent and popularity can even outlive the memories of championships. King has since written an article saying that the Fab Five could have had the same impact at an HBCU. King says he thinks about how the group could have been viewed as trendsetters at the time instead of “thugs” on the Michigan campus.
Digital on the rise
Television doesn’t drive the culture. the culture drives television. Furthermore, television doesn’t monopolize the media landscape. Wade’s comments also don’t reflect the visionary idea that today’s athletes grew up on social media and that carries more cache than anything else.
In an analytic report issued by SkullSparks, the SWAC was just a few hundred clicks away from being a top-five social media brand for NCAA conferences. The SWAC managed to finish ahead of the Big Ten, Big 12 and the Big East Conferences.