Athletics at an HBCU

A look at the long list of accomplishments of just one school

Historically Black Colleges and Universities offer students a variety of sports programs for both men and women. Looking at the athletics program at just one school provides an example of the history and tradition that HBCU sports have to offer students. From Super Bowl rings to AIAW National Championships, South Carolina proves that HBCUs graduate many great athletes.

Complementing its outstanding achievements in academics, South Carolina State University—since it first fielded a football team in 1907—has enjoyed a rich and storied history in athletics. Sports were competitive from the start and continue to flourish today.

Since becoming a charter member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (made up of Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) along the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Delaware), S.C. State, arguably, has become one of the most dominant schools in the league. The institution captured just one championship during the past academic year; however, it was the league’s most treasured—the men’s basketball title, which carries with it an automatic entry into the prestigious National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Championship and a hefty payday.

However, the 107-year-old institution has won more than 80 MEAC titles, including ten in football—the sport that attracts the most attention in the league. While parity has become the norm in the MEAC, S.C. State’s early dominance can be underscored by the university’s long hold on the league’s T.L. Hill All-Sports Trophy for overall excellence in athletics. Beginning with the 1974-75 school year, the institution earned the prestigious award for 11 consecutive seasons. Until a few years ago, the conference used the combined success of all participating teams – men and women – to determine the winner. Today, the league awards a trophy for men (Talmadge L. Hill) and women (Mary McLeod Bethune). S.C. State was fourth in the men’s division this past season after capturing the basketball crown, finishing second in indoor track and field, and recording third-place finishes in both outdoor track and field and tennis. The SCSU women were seventh in the women’s competition. The school’s legacy in athletics is further boasted by twelve national titles and numerous other recognitions and achievements.

Like most of the institutions in the MEAC, S.C. State offers a comprehensive intercollegiate sports program for both men and women, and a diversified intramural program is also available to students. Presently, male athletes participate in seven sports, all at the NCAA’s highest level—Division I-A—except in football, which is in NCAA Division I-AA. Other sports offerings for men include basketball, cross-country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, golf, and tennis. Women compete in basketball, volleyball, cross country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, bowling, tennis, softball and soccer, all at the Division I-A level. Golf will become the tenth sport offered to women in the spring of 2004.

In addition to its ten Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football titles, the university has won 21 crowns in cross country/track and field, 17 in basketball, five in golf, three each in tennis and swimming, and one in volleyball.

The university, which has produced some of the nation’s premier athletes, has also claimed two unqualified national titles and 11 national black championships during its long and storied existence. In 1979, the SCSU women won the prestigious AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate for Women) Division II National Championship and captured the AIAW National Track and Field title in 1982.

South Carolina State also has four historical black college basketball titles (1943, 1996, 1998, 2003), four national black football championships (1976, 1981, 1994), two national minority collegiate golf crowns (1987-88), and three national black swimming titles (1980-82).

Now numbering just over 4,500 students, S.C. State is steeped in athletics legacy, providing many high moments for students, faculty and staff, alums, and supporters who wish to carry the “Garnet and Blue” banner high. The university can lay claim to National Football League Hall of Fame members such as Marion Motley, a member of the original Cleveland Browns who spent two seasons at S.C. State before moving to Nevada, and David “Deacon” Jones of the Los Angeles Rams who also played two years for the Bulldogs before going to Mississippi Valley State. Among S.C. State alumni in football, NFL standouts include Donnie Shell, who won four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers; Harry Carson, who captured one NFL Championship with the New York Giants; Barney Chavous, who had an outstanding career as a player and coach with the Denver Broncos and who owns two Super Bowl rings as a Bronco coach; John Gilliam, one-time NFL record holder in receiving; Charlie Brown of the Washington Redskins, who also owns a Super Bowl ring; and Robert Porcher of the Detroit Lions, who is the school’s only NFL first-round draft pick. In addition, other high moments include winning the AIAW Division II title in 1979 and producing the first two players chosen in the baseball winter draft in 1974—Eugene Richards who went to San Diego and Willie Mays Aiken who was chosen by California and later starred at Kansas City.


This article was written by William Hamilton

William P. Hamilton is the sports information director for South Carolina State University.

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