Legendary black college football coach Billy Joe says historically black schools should stop playing money games against some of the nation’s largest programs. And he thinks it should happen immediately.
In recent years, these “guarantee games” have been a mainstay of football and men’s college basketball: smaller Division I schools, often historically black colleges strapped for cash, have agreed to play much larger Division I schools on the road for a cash payout - and a loss.
The talent gaps are wide and the potential for injury -- and hurt feelings -- are great. A year ago, for example, S.C. State played its opening three games against Central Florida, Louisiana Tech and Clemson.
S.C. State lost by a combined 151-23.
“Coaches, we call them blood games,” said Joe, 77, a former coach at Central State, Florida A&M and Miles College. His 243 career wins is second only to former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson among HBCU coaches.
“There will be blood spilled,” Joe said, “and most of it is HBCU blood.”
In 2015, Southern University played at Georgia, then ranked No. 7 nationally. Georgia won 48-6 and it was the last game that Southern’s Devon Gales ever played. Gales was a 5-foot-9, 155-pound redshirt sophomore who was injured trying to block Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan on a third-quarter return. Morgan was 6 inches taller, 50 pounds heavier. Gales’ helmet collided with Morgan’s shoulder and Gales fell to the ground.
“I hope the guy is all right,” Morgan said after the game. “I’ll be praying for him and his family.”
Two years later, HBO interviews Gales and his mother. Gales is now in a wheelchair.
Tired of such games, Andy Schwartz, a San Francisco-based antitrust economist and longtime NCAA critic, is proposing a pay-for-play college basketball league comprised of HBCUs. Schwartz’s league would pay players $50,000 to $100,000 per season. The idea would be to draw the top-notch college basketball recruits, who are predominately black, and steer at least some of them to the league.
Those players would be allowed to endorse products, sell autographs, accept gifts and sign with agents. These are all things they cannot do under current NCAA rules. They would also be allowed to declare for the NBA draft and even be selected by pro teams without losing eligibility.
But for now, Joe just wants to see change, for the HBCUs to find a way to stay afloat financially without taking these big money games with big-time schools that often don’t do anything but harm the black college players.
“When it involves money and profit,” Joe tells HBO, “people get so discombobulated they can’t see the truth. It’s just amazing how one wants to continue something as pernicious and insidious as kids going to the slaughter and playing these blood games.”
▪ The special airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. on HBO.