HBCUs do well outside NCAA

Fred Jeter | 3/21/2024, 6 p.m.
There is life beyond the NCAA for HBCUs with basketball teams.

There is life beyond the NCAA for HBCUs with basketball teams.

The NAIA (National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics) has a rich history with historically Black programs. And this year’s NAIA championship bracket included two entries from the HBCU Gulf Coast Athletic Conference — champion Philander Smith, Ark., and runner-up Tougaloo, Miss.

Philander Smith lost at Cumberlands, Ky., 97-96, and Tougaloo fell to Tennessee Southern, 91-84, in first round action. The Final Four will be March 21-26 in Kansas City.

Among the many HBCU players who competed in the NAIA tournament were NBA stars Dick Barnett (Tennessee A&I), Willis Reed (Grambling), Zelmo Beaty (Prairie View) and Travis Grant (Kentucky State).

Dating to 1937, the NAIA tourney included HBCUs prior to the NCAA recognizing them much later. Virginia Union and Prairie View broke ground by playing in the 1961 College Division (now Division II) event.

HBCUs that won the NAIA title were Tennessee A&I (now State) in 1957, 1958 and 1959; Grambling in 1961; Prairie View in 1962; Central State of Ohio in 1965 and 1968; Kentucky State in 1970, 1971 and 1972; Coppin State in 1976; and Texas Southern in 1977.

Gulf Coast member Talladega, Ala., took second in 2022.

The Gulf Coast conference includes Philander Smith; Tougaloo; Talladega; Fisk (Tenn.); Wiley (Texas); Rust (Miss.); Southern of New Orleans; Dillard of New Orleans; Oakwood (Ala.), and the Virgin Islands.

There has never been an NCAA Division I champion from an HBCU nor has any HBCU ever won more than one game.

NCAA Division II champs include Winston-Salem (1967); Virginia Union (1980, 1992 and 2005); the University of the District of Columbia (1982); and North Carolina Central in 1985.