|2018: The best of HBCU sports|
|Published Friday, December 28, 2018|
The 2018 HBCU sports season was another banner year. There were the usual surprises, exultations and disappointments, and a team that stood above all the rest.
10. Reversal of fortune. Morehouse men’s basketball team won its first 18 games and was ranked No. 1 in the South Region for the first time in program history. The Maroon Tigers finished the regular season 25-2 and earned the No. 1 seed in the South Region Tournament. What did they do with their newfound fame? Lose in the first round to Florida Southern in overtime. Bye.
9. Fourth time’s the charm. Virginia Union women were clearly the best team in the CIAA – and most of Division II – so fans were expecting a return to the national championship game and perhaps a title instead of runner-up. But Bowie State had other ideas. The Bulldogs, who lost to the Panthers three times (two in regular season and once in tourney), got sweet revenge with an upset victory over VUU in the first round of the Atlantic Regional Tournament. BSU advanced to the regional final before losing.
8. Still the king. North Carolina Central men’s basketball looked dead in the water. The team was 12-13 midway the season, and those fair-weather fans and jealous co-workers had started in on coach LeVelle Moton – again! Some folks were so sure the team was coming home early from the MEAC Tournament, they didn’t even bother to show up the first night. Or the second. Their loss. Moton saved his best coaching job of the season during tourney week and led the Eagles to a second straight MEAC championship. Take that and stick it!
7. Stock on the rise. HBCU programs have become popular breeding grounds for former star players from predominately white institutions. Former North Carolina and NBA superstar George Lynch was named head men’s basketball coach at Clark Atlanta, and ex-NBA All-Star Kenny Anderson was hired by Fisk University.
6. Stock on the rise, part 2. Mike Davis left Texas Southern to head the men’s basketball program at Detroit Mercy. Mike London skipped away from Howard to run the football program at William & Mary. Although both coaches have coached at Division I PWCs before, it’s still an exclusive list of HBCU coaches getting hired at a PWC in a top job.
5. Just desserts. Coaching legends Bill Hayes, Rod Broadway and others were honored by ESPN as part of its HBCU football special. The contributions of HBCU football coaches are ignored more often than those of HBCU players.
4. Welcome back Kotter, er Oliver. Trei Oliver made a name for himself on the field as a star defensive back at NCCU. Now he’s ready to parlay those skills into becoming a top FCS head coach at his alma mater. Oliver reminds you of Jerry Mack, the previous permanent head coach: young and confident, with a touch of brashness. Just what the Eagles need.
3. Living the hype. Bowie State quarterback Amir Hall gave fans everything they asked for – and more. Hall put the league on his shoulders and let it ride him for a season of a lifetime. The Bulldogs won both their first CIAA championship and their first postseason game. Hall, meanwhile, became the conference’s all-time touchdown passing leader and earned CIAA offensive player of the year. He will be playing somewhere on Sundays.
2. HBCU billboards. Darius Leonard, Tarik Cohen and Brandon Parker are giving HBCUs plenty of free publicity. South Carolina State alum and three-time MEAC defensive player of the year, Leonard has set a franchise record in tackles with the Indianapolis Colts. He also has led the NFL in tackles for much of the season.
Former A&T running back great Tarik Cohen is on his way to the NFL Pro Bowl in just his second season. He has 420 yards rushing, 717 receiving, 413 returning and seven touchdowns this season for the Chicago Bears.
A&T’s Parker is a starting offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders.
1. Aggie Pride. Amplified. First A&T coach Rod Broadway retires after leading the Aggies to an undefeated 2017 season and the black college national championship. Then Sam Washington is promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach, holds the team together after two regular-season losses, knocks off FBS opponent East Carolina, shuts out archrival NCCU 45-0, and wins a second consecutive MEAC championship and Celebration Bowl to defend their national championship title. I’ve been waiting for some Aggies to say, “It’s time to move up to FBS football.”
Let’s not get crazy.
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