It’s time to step-up! With all the conference realignment (FBS & FCS) going on it would be interesting to learn if any HBCUs are considering a step-up in conference affiliation and/or divisional status.
I for one am a huge proponent of HBCUs. One of my younger brothers is a Howard alum and I have multiples of Rattlers (Florida A&M) alums in my family and TSU Tigers too. There is a concerted effort amongst many HBCUs as with most colleges and universities in general to maintain academic standards and to elevate their own status and Tier consideration.
We are early into our second decade of the 21st century. HBCUs are important enterprises of academics and hold historical significance and continue to provide educational opportunities for many minorities, students of lesser financial means (and higher), and white students in addition to their primary population, black scholars.
Continuing shifts in U.S. population demographics and political achievement has lead many to falsely assume that we are a post-racial society despite ongoing evidence to the contrary. However, I propose that it is this false perception and a true need for renewed missions and goals that should be impetus for change at specific HBCUs.
There is true recognition of the academic prowess of Howard, Florida A&M, Morehouse and Spellman alums (to name every HBCU would take too long, my apologies). I submit that to continue brand recognition and growth, HBCUs should take a long look into their public relations priorities and target audiences. TSU, Texas Southern University, recently lost its Physics program due to lack of students and graduates. We can blame the public education system for not producing enough academically proficient students or steering students towards fields such as chemistry and Physics. We can also blame state legislatures that may be perceived to focus on cuts at HBCUs prior to approaching “mainstream” institutions. But we must also blame the institutions that do not actively promote or enact back-up plans. You don’t have enough black students in your Physics program at your HBCU? Do you wait for new scholars to magically appear? No!!! You recruit, advertise, and expand your pool. Open your recruitment and PR targeting to the general Houston population, Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, Central America. Do not stand idle and wait for legislature to determine your future.
Despite cries to the contrary, athletics can help to spur academics. Better athletics leads to more air-time (TV, Radio, Web), leads to more market presence and a greater pool (quantity and quality) of potential students. Schools such as TSU, Howard, and Florida A&M should strongly consider a move to FBS. In particular, TSU should look into a move to the soon to be merged Mountain West and Conference USA conferences. Though it is not a BCS conference and its media contracts are miniscule compared to the Big10 the immediate payout of joining Mountain West or Conference USA would make TSU’s current budget laughable by comparison. Its local and national profile would be raised in its current target audience and future potential audiences. Fundraising and campus improvement drives are often driven by the success of extracurricular programs.
Also, it would place them in position to recruit the very athletes that shun HBCUs. Major schools produce major talent, produce professional ball-players. There is, from time to time, public outcry in the black community that its students and athletes do not get a fair shake at the “major” public higher education institutions and that there was a time when the best athletes attended HBCUs. There was a reason behind those athletes having no choice but to attend HBCUs; it no longer exists. Give the general population and black student-athletes the opportunity to attend an HBCU and still have access to their dreams, whether academic or athletically based. A student looking for the opportunity to chase a national championship in football or basketball will first look to programs with tie-ins. In football that would be FBS conferences. In basketball it would be conferences with multiple tournament entries each year.
Texas Southern University! TSU, give the general population and black student-athletes the opportunity to attend an HBCU and still have access to their dreams, whether academic or athletically based.