Longest-Running HBCU Bowl Game Canceled…Again

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    Pioneer BowlOnce heralded as the longest-running bowl game between Black schools, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (“SIAC”) announced Wednesday that the annual Pioneer Bowl game will be canceled.

    A release from the SIAC Wednesday said it has been informed the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (“CIAA”) will be unable to participate in the Pioneer Bowl this year. That means the annual bowl game between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) dating back to 1971 will not be played for the third time since 2001.

    In the wake of the Grambling State football team’s protest and strike over inadequate facilities and travel arrangements, the cancellation of the Pioneer Bowl is further evidence of the trouble HBCUs are facing in financing.

    This is the second time in five years the bowl has been canceled due to budgetary constraints. It had been the longest-running bowl game between HBCUs in the nation. It was also canceled in 2002.

    “Although we are deeply disappointed for Albany State University, the team we selected to participate, and their student-athletes, we must respect the wishes of our partner’s decision not to play the game this year,” said SIAC Commissioner Gregory Moore. “Moving forward, I am confident that we will be able to work together to ensure that this historic football game will be played again next year.”

    Albany State received this year’s bid by defeating Miles College 17-14 in the SIAC Centennial Championship game played over the weekend at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta.

    “I was contacted this past weekend by Commissioner Moore, who informed me of the CIAA’s decision not to participate in the in the Pioneer Bowl this year,” said Albany State Athletic Director Dr. Richard Williams.

    The CIAA did not have a championship game after five players from Virginia State University were accused of beating up Winston Salem State University quarterback Rudy Johnson in a bathroom. Virginia State’s postseason was also canceled after the fight.

    “While our team, student body, alumni and fans were looking forward to playing another football game, it will not diminish the outstanding year enjoyed by our student-athletes, coach Mike White and the entire Albany State University football staff.”

    Earlier this year the first-ever HBCU Tip-Off Classic that was to take place at Atlanta’s Philips Arena was canceled, because of what Kevin Clayton, the founder of JumpBall and creator of the HBCU Tip-Off, called “unforeseen circumstances.”

    Eight teams including Morehouse, Virginia Union Tuskegee and non-HBCU contender Wisconsin-Green Bay, among others, had accepted bids to play in the tournament. The tournament would have marked the first time in the arena’s 14-year history that it hosted an HBCU basketball game.

    National Urban League President Marc Morial diagnosed the failings of HBCUs and the danger the schools face in an editorial for the National Newspaper Publishers Association that was published by the Atlanta Daily World, titled “State of Emergency For Black Colleges.” In the piece, Morial details many of the problems the institutions have been facing for years.

    “With lower endowments, cut-rate tuition fees, fund raising challenge and a disproportionate number of first-generation, low-income students, HBCUs have been hit especially hard by the economic downturn. Recent cuts in government aid and other funding streams have been the last straw for several of them. St. Paul’s College in southern Virginia closed its doors in June. Atlanta’s Morris Brown College recently declared bankruptcy. And a board member at Howard University, considered by many to be the nation’s premier HBCU, recently wrote, ‘Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now.’

    “In addition to the financial strains on HBCUs, prospective students are finding it harder to scrape up the money to enroll. A recent change in credit history criteria in the federal Parent PLUS Loan Program has resulted in the denial of loans to 28,000 HBCU students and a loss of $154 million in revenue to HBCUs. Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Marcia L. Fudge has responded to this crisis by demanding a return to the previous credit policy. She says, “The issue must be addressed and the policy must be fixed now.'”

    Neither the SIAC or CIAA announced whether the game would be held next year. The game has not been canceled two years in a row since its continuous play began in 1997.

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