Black College Football History
Since the first "Black College Football" game was played nearly 120 years ago between two Historically Black Colleges - Biddle University and Livingstone College - black college football has served as a vehicle for change and a dimension of pride and purpose among the black community.
Once denied an opportunity to play the popular college sport, African Americans forged their own athletic conferences, changing the way the game is played. Black Colleges (segregated by law at the time) were not included in the NCAA when it was formed in 1910, so Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) developed their own conferences that still exist today. In 1912, the first Black college intercollegiate conference was formed, the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and the second, the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1913.
Ten years after black college football played its inaugural game, the popularity of the sport exploded onto HBCU campuses. Initially, intercollegiate play between HBCUs were far and few between, but by the 1920's black college football had become so popular that almost all HBCUs had football programs. Competition intensified and rivalries developed between such schools as Tuskegee and Atlanta University, Fisk and Meharry and one of the biggest, producing the main event of 1920s black social life, the annual Howard vs. Lincoln "Turkey Day" game. The Howard vs. Lincoln Thanksgiving match-up drew crowds so large that each college was forced to rent out stadiums and eventually build their own. The annual game was the first of its kind and prompted the "Classics" trend among HBCUs that still exists to this day.
"Athletics is the universal language. By and through it we hope to foster a better and more fraternal spirit between the races in America and so to destroy prejudices; to learn and to be taught; to facilitate a universal brotherhood."—Howard University Hilltop, April 29, 1924
For black college coaches, improvisation was a means of survival. The exclusion of HBCUs from the NCAA made for a relationship of odd proportions between HBCU coaches and coaches at majority institutions. While African Americans were not allowed in their universities, Alabama's Bear Bryant and Frank Boyles of Arkansas would often visit head coach Ace W. Mumford at Southern University's campus in Baton Rouge, LA and together devise plays. Florida A&M's Jake Gaither and the legendary coach Eddie Robinson was also included in this number. Over his 51 year career Eddie Robinson sent more than 200 players to the National Football League, of them was the very first black college player signed to the NFL, Paul "Tank" Younger in 1949. Some of the greatest football players to play in the NFL have come from HBCUs including Walter "Sweetness" Payton, Doug Williams, Jerry Rice, Richard Dent, Willie Lanier, Steve McNair, and Michael Strahan, to name a few.
In developing BCFx - The Black College Football Xperience, we did not "exclude" races, we made a conscience decision to shine a much needed light on this one-of-a-kind sports experience that has existed for almost 120 years. Anyone who has ever experienced a Black College Football game would know the pageantry and excitement of the Classic rivalries, show-stopping marching bands, and halftime shows, that make this experience truly unique.
Although we would like to take credit for creating the "Black College Football Experience", we simply recognized it as an opportunity to provide educational and entertaining content to everyone regardless of race.