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Are conference naming rights the future for HBCUs?

Are conference naming rights the future for HBCUs?

In this new world of the NCAA finally admitting they are a for-profit organization, athletes aren’t the only ones looking to make an untethered profit.

Yahoo Sports College Football reporter Ross Dellenger reported Thursday that the Big 12 Conference and Conference USA are considering potential naming rights deals for their respective leagues. The Big 12 is also considering private equity deals to shore up resources and funding for its programs.

With name-brand facilities, tournaments, and championship games having been the norm for more than 30 years, it was only a matter of time before leagues and conferences began exploring the possibilities of naming rights.

Will this apply to conferences at all levels, especially on the HBCU home front?

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Southwestern Athletic Conference, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference have a combined 381 years of total experience under their names. At the same time, the newly-minted HBCU Conference begins its new era this coming season. It would be hard to imagine either “Core 4” changing their names to generate money for their leagues and programs.

It’s hard to imagine, yes, but it’s a possibility each commissioner will likely explore.

For decades, the NCAA tried to hide that money was the name of the game, not competition. Thanks to various lawsuits and settlements, that facade has crumbled, and the organization is forced to admit that it is not Oliver Twist who is begging for more in its bowl.

Unfortunately, that has consequences for everyone outside of the Power 5, and even within those ranks, as the Power 5 now becomes the Power 4 with the dissolving of the Pac 12.

Irv Mulligan, Jackson State
Photo: Justin Ford/HBCU Sports

The 27 leagues without the benefit of having the NCAA in their pockets will have to play a game of catch-up about resources, so it’s not unreasonable to believe that league naming rights would be on the table.

Thanks to Cricket being the title sponsor for the Celebration Bowl, the potential is there for the MEAC and SWAC. The SWAC is now the more profound and stronger league, so maybe they get the name. Or the MEAC receives it with a strong pitch toward expansion. Or they could form the mythical HBCU “super-conference” stakeholders have been dying for in the last decade, and Cricket latches on that way.

The CIAA and SIAC have strong traditional Southern roots, and businesses in the South could benefit from working with schools from Southeastern Pennsylvania to Western Tennessee.

It is safe to say no one wants to see timeless names disappear. How long have MEAC, SWAC, CIAA, and SIAC been in our vocabularies across generations?

Unfortunately, survival mode dictates adjustment and adaptation; that’s where our schools and hundreds, if not thousands of others, stand now.

If HBCU conferences want to continue to compete at a reasonable level, rational decisions regarding resources will have to be made.

If that means a name change, we’ll adjust, especially if it means securing a brighter future for Black College athletics.

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