ATLANTA, GA — Allen University continues to break new ground with its football program — and soon it will do so literally.
The Columbia, SC – based HBCU reached an agreement with Richland County for a piece of property at 1741 Cushman Drive on July 11. That land will ultimately be developed into a stadium for the football program and other outdoor sports.
AU president Dr. Ernest C. McNealey spoke with HBCU Gameday at SIAC football Media Day on Wednesday about the new development.
“Well, we have been trying to locate land to build a full-scale athletic complex — football, track and field, soccer. The entire nine yards.” Dr. McNealey said. “The county owns land, maybe two-and-a-half miles from the campus. We had been in an extended negotiation and it finally concluded last night.”
It’s been a long time coming for Allen University. The AME school has been playing its football games at Columbia’s Westwood High School since re-starting its program back in 2018. The University has been working towards securing the land for the stadium for quite a while, and it expects to move quickly.
“We made the initial approach to the county last August and there were periodic conversations and exchange of documents,” McNealey continued. “And in point of fact, we had anticipated playing football (on the land) this coming fall, but obviously, we were not able to conclude the transaction. And so as quickly as we sign the contracts when I get back to town, we’ll start the developmental process. And certainly, by next fall, we will have all of our sports a new home for competition.”
The new stadium would be the next step forward for Allen University athletics, which operated in the NAIA for decades after leaving the SIAC in the late 1960s. It began to prepare for transition to NCAA Division II membership in 2020 and recently completed the second-year of a three-year transition to full membership. Despite its transitional status, Allen was predicted to finish above Morehouse College and Kentucky State.
“Well, the SIAC is important, obviously,” McNealey said. “Allen was in it previously and so when I was hired there were probably four board members who had been student-athletes in the SIAC and so they were very interested in the return of football and they were very interested in becoming a part of the SIAC. And so we are obviously gratified to make that happen for them.”
Allen University Director of Athletics Jasher Cox was excited about the news and what it means for athletics, as well as the university as a whole.
“Athletics drives a lot and we can be a driving force collectively now that this athletic facility is about to come to fruition,” Cox said. “Good news yesterday as the land has been acquired and we can move forward for a goal that’s been in place for quite some time.”
McNealey was honored by the SIAC on Wednesday afternoon as a hall of fame inductee. He oversaw a similar transition at Stillman College in Alabama before coming to Columbia, SC in 2017.
“He wants to win and he wants to do a lot of winning,” Cox continued. “And so what comes along with that is an enormous amount of passion that he has for the department of intercollegiate athletics. This transition going from NAIA to NCAA is not a mistake either. He knew by adopting such that it would improve a lot of areas on campus and a lot of pillars as well. And we’ve done just that.”
“So as a result of athletics transitioning the process from financial aid, improves. Enrollment management, the registrar’s office, everybody has to play a vital role in that process. And so that’s one of the reasons why he’s here — because he’s done that at multiple institutions.”