Get ready for a feast in 2021 if you crave the spectacle that is HBCU games on television or streamed over the internet.
That’s because a record will be set as over 120 football games are to be either televised or streamed this upcoming 2021 fall season. Games are set for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Nine games can be seen during each of five weeks with another five weeks with double-digit (ten or 11) broadcasts. Just about every game you want to see can be seen in 2021.
This year – God-willing and the Delta Variant doesn’t rise to stop it – HBCU football is in the throes of a resurgence.
The way we were
Think back, if you’re old enough – and you probably aren’t – to 1968 when Grambling played Morgan State in Yankee Stadium. The game, the first-ever HBCU gridiron contest played in New York city and the first at the hallowed baseball cathedral, made national headlines and drew mega attention to HBCU football.
It was part of the genius of Grambling SID extraordinare Collie Nicholson, the man who along with Grambling President Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, head coach Eddie Robinson and the famed Grambling Marching Band, was responsible for making Grambling a household name throughout America.
Through Nicholson’s marketing prowess, the G-Men had a highlight show that aired on 95 stations in the U. S. and 50 armed forces stations around the world each Sunday, the day after a Grambling game. It was before there was an ESPN or Black Entertainment Television (BET). Grambling became to black America what Notre Dame, who had a similar highlight show, was to the rest of the country.
Helping set the HBCU Buffet
Nicholson also booked the Tigers into the LA Coliseum and just about every major NFL venue and even took the G-Men and Morgan State unto Tokyo, Japan (1976) and put on Grambling vs. Temple there a year later. Nicholson is considered the founder of the Bayou Classic (Grambling vs. Southern in the New Orleans Super Dome at season’s end).
He didn’t invent black college classic games but he certainly expanded them, even unto Hawaii. Read Michael Hurd’s book about him entitled, “Collie J: Grambling’s Man with the Golden Pen.”
Those were the heady days of black college football.
Those days are dawning again.
Yes, the behemoth known as ESPN has hogged, and I mean hogged, the coverage. But, for $5.99 a month (the price for ESPN+ that is carrying a boatload of the games), well . . . , you can’t beat it. There, I said it.
So get your TV, your smartphone, your tablet, your watch, whatever you’re going to watch it on ready ’cause it’s about to go down!!
The matchups are Oh! so scrumptious!
An excellent entree
This weekend, on Saturday, August 28, Alcorn State, previously known as “The Beast of the East” in the Southwestern Athletic Conference for its dominance of the league’s Eastern Division over the last six years, debuts as a West Division power when it represents the conference in the SWAC/MEAC Challenge in Atlanta vs. North Carolina Central.
The “Week Zero” game, as it is called, will air on ESPN no less. Not ESPN 2, 3 or 14. On E-S-P-N.
Not only does Jackson State and head coach ‘Don’t call me Deion’ “Coach Prime” Sanders open in a showcase game in Miami dubbed the Orange Blossom Classic a week later on Sunday, Sept. 5 on ESPN 2. But the opponent is Florida A&M and head coach, ‘You can call me’ Willie (if you know me), Simmons as the Rattlers make their SWAC debut (after leaving the MEAC) in an opening week East Division showdown.
This game is the rekindling of one of the most famous classics in black college football history started in 1933 by J. R. E. Lee Jr., the son of a Florida A&M president. The OBC was known as the de facto black college national championship game during its prime and was hosted by FAMU’s legendary head coach Alonzo “Jake” Gaither.
More on Sunday
But hold up! This is the same day (Sun., Sept. 5) that former NFL star Eddie George makes his debut as the new head coach at Tennessee State going up against perennial SWAC powerhouse and back college football icon Grambling State in the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic in Canton, Ohio.
This game comes a couple weeks after, and on the same field where four HBCU legends – Winston Hill of Texas Southern, Harold Carmichael of Southern, Donnie Shell of South Carolina State and Bill Nunn Sr. of West Virginia State – were inducted into Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Fittingly, the game will air on the NFL Network, not ESPN.
Still more on Sunday
Also on Sunday, Tuskegee and Fort Valley State will go at it on ESPNU in Montgomery, Alabama in the first annual Red Tails Classic honoring the Word War II Army Air Force flyers and servicemen and women known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
So that’s an HBCU tripleheader on the Sunday before the NFL season begins! The history accompanying these games is just like desert!
Appetizing! And we’re just getting started.
Clash of the Titans
A week later, on Sept. 11, those latest NFL stars turned HBCU head coaches – Deion Sanders and Eddie George – bring their teams (Jackson State and Tennessee State) to square off in Memphis at the 32nd annual Southern Heritage Classic.
The game usually draws crowds of 40,000-plus but with the added hype of Sanders and George going at it for the first time, it’s likely to sell out the 58,000-seat Liberty Bowl stadium. It will be on ESPN3.
HBCU Games: The Meat
That’s not to mention the traditional hot tickets and sell-out crowds of over 60,000 that grace the Magic City Classic at Birmingham’s Legion Field (Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M, Oct. 30, on ESPN3), the Bayou Classic returning to the Super Dome in New Orleans (Southern vs. Grambling State, Nov. 27, on NBC Sports Network) or the Florida Classic in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl (Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M, Nov. 20, ESPN Digital) that now moves from the MEAC to the SWAC ledger.
We haven’t even talked about homecomings and the fact that the Greatest Homecoming on Earth, North Carolina A&T’s beloved GHOE, will match the now Big South Aggies against the two-time conference champion Hawks of Monmouth on Oct. 30 in Greensboro.
It’s on ESPN+ and it’s gonna be . . . Succulent!
HBCU Games: The Real Banquet
Now, all this is only necessary if you can’t get to the games in person. And we pray this most recent spike in the virus doesn’t prevent that.
It’s at the games where the full course of the black national pastime is served – meetin’ and greetin’, chowing down while tailgaitin’, swaying to the funky bands, being tripped out by the halftime shows and breathing in and soaking up the soulful atmosphere.
And by the way, there’s a game being played, too.
Either way, it’s a meal you don’t want to miss. Especially in 2021.
Now feast your eyes on these!
List of HBCU Games Streamed or on TV in 2021
SATURDAY, AUGUST 28
2 p.m. Central State vs. Kentucky State in Columbus, OH ESPNU
7 p.m. Alcorn State vs. North Carolina Central in Atlanta ESPN
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2
6 p.m. Virginia Union @ Hampton ESPN+
7 p.m. Miss. Valley State @ Murray State ESPN+
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
4 p.m. Bowie State @ Delaware State ESPN3 or ESPN+
4 p.m. Towson @ Morgan State ESPN3 or ESPN+
6 p.m. Southern @ Troy – 6 p.m. ESPN3
6 p.m. Allen @ Benedict ESPN+
7 p.m. Prairie View A&M @ Texas Southern ESPN Digital
9 p.m. Bethune-Cookman @ UTEP ESPN3
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
3 p.m. Jackson State vs. Florida A&M in Miami ESPN2
3 p.m. Grambling Statevs. Tennessee State in Canton, OH NFL Network
7 p.m. Fort Valley State vs. Tuskegee in Montgomery ESPNU
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
8 p.m. Edward Waters @ Benedict ESPNU
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10
8 p.m. North Carolina A&T @ Duke ACCN
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
12 p.m. Alabama State @ Auburn SECN
1 p.m. Georgetown @ Delaware State ESPN3 or ESPN+
6:30 p.m. Bethune-Cookman @ UCF ESPN+
7 p.m. Grambling State @ Southern Mississippi ESPN3
7 p.m. Texas Southern @ Baylor Big 12 Now on ESPN+
7 p.m. Tennessee State vs. Jackson State in Memphis * ESPN3
7 p.m. Hampton @ Old Dominion ESPN3
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
7:30 p.m. Alabama A&M @ Bethune-Cookman ESPNU
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
2 p.m. Lane @ Fort Valley State ESPN+
2 p.m. Kentucky State @ Tennessee State ESPN+
4 p.m. Alcorn State @ South Alabama ESPN3
5 p.m. Clark Atlanta @Albany State ESPN+
6 p.m. Lincoln (PA) @ Gardner-Webb ESPN+
6 p.m. Elizabeth City State @ Norfolk State ESPN3 or ESPN+.
6 p.m. Winston-Salem State @ NC Central ESPN3 or ESPN+
7 p.m. Grambling State @ Houston ESPN+
7 p.m. Florida A&M @ South Florida ESPN+
8 p.m. Jackson State @ Louisiana-Monroe ESPN3
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23
1 p.m. Alcorn State @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff ESPNU
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
12 p.m. Howard @ Robert Morris ESPN+
1 p.m. Bethune-Cookman @ Alabama State ESPN Digital
2 p.m Merrimack College @ Delaware State ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. Tennessee State @ SE Missouri ESPN+
6 p.m. Morehouse @ Savannah State ESPN+
6 p.m. Central State @ Miles ESPN+
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
2 p.m. Southern vs. Mississippi Valley State ESPN Digital
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2
12 p.m. Saint Francis (Pa.) @ Morgan State ESPN3 or ESPN+
1 p.m. Sacred Heart @ Howard ESPN3 or ESPN+
1 p.m. Clark Atlanta @ Tuskegee ESPN+
1 p.m. Alabama A&M @ Grambling State ESPN Digital
1 p.m. Robert Morris @NC A&T ESPN3
1:30 p.m. Bethune-Cookman @ SC State ESPN3 or ESPN+
6 p.m. Albany State @ Miles ESPN+
7 p.m. Tennessee State @ Austin Peay ESPN+
8 p.m. Morgan State @ Howard Live ESPNU
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8
8 p.m. Morgan State @ Howard Live ESPNU
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9
1 p.m. Tennessee Tech @ NC Central ESPN3 or +
1 pm North Alabama @ NC A&T ESPN+/Nexstar
1 p.m. Jackson State @ Alabama A&M ESPN Digital
1 p.m. Grambling State @ Alcorn State ESPN Digital
2 pm Kennesaw State @ Hampton ESPN3
7 p.m. Benedict @ Miles ESPN+
7 p.m. Morehouse vs. Tuskegee in Columbus, GA ESPN+
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16
1 p.m. Florida A&M @ Alabama A&M ESPN Digital
1 p.m. Alabama State @ Jackson State ESPN Digital
1 p.m. Virginia State @ Bowie State Aspire
1:30 p.m. Morgan State @ SC State Live ESPN3
2 p.m. Virginia-Lynchburg @ Norfolk State ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. Tennessee Tech @ Tennessee State ESPN+
2 p.m. Fort Valley @ Morehouse ESPN+
2 p.m. Southern @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff ESPN Digital
3 p.m. Clark Atlanta @ Savannah State ESPN+
5 p.m. NC A&T @ Kenn. State ESPN+/Nexstar
6 p.m. Hampton @ Charleston Southern ESPN+
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23
1 p.m. Lane @ Tuskegee ESPN+
1 p.m. NC Central @ Morgan State ESPN3 or ESPN+
1 p.m. Bethune-Cookman @ Jackson State ESPN Digital
1 p.m. Livingstone @ Winston-Salem State Aspire
1:30 p.m. Virginia-Lynchburg@ Tennessee Tech ESPN+
2 p.m. Savannah State @ Albany State ESPN+
2 p.m. Tennessee State @ Eastern Illinois ESPN+
2 p.m. NC A&T @ Hampton ESPN+
2 p.m. SC State @ Delaware State Live ESPN3
2 p.m. Norfolk State @ Howard ESPNU (TBD)
6 p.m. Prairie View A&M @ Southern ESPN Digital
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30
TBA Savannah State @ Fort Valley State ESPN+
1 p.m. Saint Augustine’s @ Johnson C. Smith Aspire
1 p.m. Kentucky State @ Tuskegee ESPN+
1 p.m. Monmouth @ NC A&T ESPN+
2 p.m. Morgan State @ Norfolk State ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. Howard @ Delaware State ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. South Carolina State @ NC Central ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. Arkansas-Pine Bluff @ Texas Southern ESPNU
3 p.m. Grambling State @ Florida A&M ESPN Digital
5 p.m. Murray State @Tennessee State ESPN+
6 p.m. Alcorn State @ Southern ESPN Digital
TBA Alabama State vs. Alabama A&M in Birmingham ESPN3
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 4
7:30 p.m. Delaware State @ Morgan State Live ESPNU
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 6
1 p.m. Tuskegee @ Miles ESPN+
1 p.m. Gardner-Webb @ Hampton ESPN+/Nexstar
1 p.m. Virginia State @ Virginia Union Aspire
1:30 or 2 p.m. Howard @ SC State or Live ESPN3
1:30 or 2 p.m. Norfolk State @ NC Central Later ESPNU (TBD)
2 p.m. Morehouse @ Clark Atlanta ESPN+
2 p.m. Tennessee State @ UT Martin ESPN+
2 p.m. Grambling State @ Ark.-Pine Bluff ESPN Digital
6 p.m. Florida A&M @ Southern ESPN Digital
TBA Albany State vs. Fort Valley State in Columbus, GA ESPN+
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13
1 p.m. Norfolk State @ Delaware State ESPN3 or ESPN+
1 p.m. Hampton @ Campbell ESPN+/Nexstar
1 p.m. TBA – CIAA Championship Game Aspire
1:30 p.m. Edward Waters @ Allen ESPN+
2 p.m NC Central @ Howard ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m NC A&T State @ SC State ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. Austin Peay @ Tennessee State ESPN+
2 p.m. Alabama A&M @ Texas Southern ESPN Digital
6 p.m. Jackson State @ Southern * ESPN3
TBA SIAC Championship Game ESPN3
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20
12 p.m Georgetown @Morgan State ESPN3 or ESPN+
1 p.m. Alcorn State @ Jackson State ESPN Digital
1 p.m. Gardner-Webb @ NC A&T ESPN3
1 p.m. North Alabama @ Hampton ESPN+
1 p.m Va.-Lynchburg @ Howard ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. South Carolina State @ Norfolk State or ESPN3 or ESPN+
2 p.m. Delaware State @ NC Central ESPN3 or ESPN+
TBA Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M in Orlando ESPN Digital
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 27
2 p.m. MississippiValley State @ Prairie View A&M ESPN Digital
4 p.m. Grambling State vs. Southern in New Orleans NBC Sports
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4
4 p.m. SWAC Football Championship ESPNU
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18
12 p.m. Cricket Celebration Bowl in Atlanta Live on ABC