Set Trippin: HBCU Rivalries Gone Underground 

When people think of HBCU football, they tend to think of it as a homogeneous unit. The fact is that there are levels to this. The MEAC and SWAC are members of the FCS unit of Division I. The SIAC and CIAA are a part of Divsion II and there are several schools that play at the NAIA level.

This week we'll see several D2/D1 matchups, including Bowie State/Morgan State and Morehouse/Howard in the Nation's Classic.

Unfortunately, some of the best HBCU rivalries are no longer taking place. Here are three D1/D2 rivalries we hope to see come back soon. 


Tuskegee vs. Alabama State 

This rivalry dates way back before any black school thought about being Division I, or even recognized by the NCAA. The two teams met at the end of every football season in a game known as the Turkey Day Classic for the better part of a century before Tuskegee decided to skip the game to make itself available for the D2 playoffs. That move caused a lot of controversy, and it doesn't look like its going away anytime soon. Hopefully the two teams will get together to salvage this rivalry.


Virginia State vs. Norfolk State 

These two schools hold a very close history together. In fact, Norfolk State started off as a branch of Virginia State. Eventually NSU split off and so the rivalry between the Trojans and Spartans were born. The two schools were heated conference rivals in the CIAA until NSU jumped to Division I and the MEAC. Despite their separate conference affiliations, the two schools continued to play each other yearly in The Labor Day Classic. 

That long time rivalry was finally severed in 2013, when NSU announced it wouldn't be able to continue as the Labor Day Classic due to new NCAA rules that prohibited Division I schools from playing Division II schools prior to the holiday without a waiver. To date, there are no plans to put this rivalry back together. VSU currently leads the series 26-23-1.


North Carolina A&T vs. Winston-Salem State 

For most of this rivarly's history, it wasn't much of a rivalry in terms of competitiveness. A&T won the first 21 games against WSSU, and most of them weren't even close. WSSU finally began to have some success against A&T under Bill Hayes, who won six of nine matchups against them. He then left for A&T to help it re-emerge as a black college football power. 

The rivalry took a hitaus in the early-2000s, but was reborn when Winston-Salem State was admitted to the MEAC as a provisional member in 2006. WSSU took three of the five games the two teams played during that era before the two teams stopped playing against each other after WSSU moved back to Division II. Since that time, WSSU has turned into a Division II powerhouse while A&T has been rebuilt into a MEAC contender. 

The reason that the game isn't still going on? Well that depends on who you ask. An NC A&T supporter would probably tell you that WSSU wants too much money. A WSSU grad would probably tell you A&T's afraid to get beat by a Division II team. What we know for sure: A&T currently leads the series 37-12.


Let's hope that these rivalries return. They're great games, not matter the level of play.


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