The Tennessee State Tigers athletics program is currently in a quandary, as their current conference, the OVC (Ohio Valley Conference), is falling apart at the seams. With football being the biggest revenue-maker for most institutions, it’s imperative that a program positions itself in a conference that’s about the bag.
The Tigers have been a part of the OVC since 1988 and with just six football teams currently left in the conference, the future looks bleak.
TSU athletics director Mikki Allen knows he needs to do something to give the program a jolt. While his goal is for the school to become an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) program, that isn’t happening without a stop into another FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) program or staying put in the OVC and hoping it picks back up for a few years.
— Kēnan Smith (@Keno_S_) February 19, 2022
“I have a goal for this program to become an FBS program and to do that we need to make the enhancements in terms of our facility profiles and competition venues,” Allen told the Tennessean. “We’re bolstering resource investments into our coaching staff, and then when you look at exposure, conference exposure is paramount. That has a lot to with recruiting. We want to put a fence around our talent here in Tennessee, but the conference exposure comes from our neighbors as well. Out of conference markets have a lot to do with attendance and putting butts in the seats, so we’re looking to all those things.
“We’re definitely open to hearing other conferences.”
Head Football Coach Eddie George Expressed His Concern About The Conference Last Month:
Following Jackson State abruptly ending its relationship with the Southern Heritage Classic, and then agreeing to play one more time in 2022, Eddie George talked about what his friend Deion Sanders is doing and his vision, which seems to be much bigger than playing in that game every year going forward. Deion’s harsh truth made George question the direction of his program and athletics department.
Big South Conference and Ohio Valley Conference Announce Football Agreement; Unique Association to Benefit All Football Membershttps://t.co/L5rSp9H5cr
— Tennessee State Football (@TSUTigersFB) February 23, 2022
In his interview with the “1StarRecruits” podcast George expressed his concerns.
“We’re going into a different time and age. For us now — obviously — Tennessee State, we are seeking to go to a new conference that has more stability. The OVC — is a dying conference at this point. But we can continue to stay hopeful that OVC leadership will pick and continue to add teams. But at some point, we’re going to have to take into account our future and do what’s best for Tennessee State.”
Honoring our Stripes🐯 — Head Coach @EddieGeorge2727
9️⃣ seasons as an @nfl running back, OROTY (1996), 1️⃣st-team All-Pro (2000), 4x Pro Bowl (1997-2000), No. 27 retired with the Titans and Ohio State, Titans/Oilers Ring of Honor, Heisman Trophy (1995).
— Tennessee State Football (@TSUTigersFB) February 27, 2022
Sounds like someone who’s had a few talks with Sanders and has revamped his entire game plan. The Hall of Fame former running back has admitted that coaching/running a program is new to him. He was a big-name hire with no prior experience, but you can tell he’s definitely inspired now.
Tigers Hope To See Other Teams Join OVC Or Find A New Conference
The TSU Tigers are still holding out hope that other teams join the OVC, but that’s far-fetched with HBCU programs that fled the MEAC for the Colonial Athletic Association, SWAC, and Big South over the past four to five years reportedly never even considering joining the OVC.
— Mike Organ (@MikeOrganWriter) November 9, 2021
Per reports, the SWAC, which has reached new heights in exposure and visibility since the arrival of Coach Prime in Jackson, Mississippi, reached out to TSU about a possible union. HBCU Sports Lab tweeted about that possibility and of another HBCU joining the dying OVC.
That would be huge for Tennessee State. I would love to see HBCUs come into the OVC. That would be phenomenal if that were to happen, but it hasn’t.”
Tennessee State’s fastest route to gaining the exposure and visibility they desperately crave is to take the SWAC up on their offer. The fear of the price tag it will take to leave may be one hurdle, but that can definitely be recouped.
Another reason is the pageantry of HBCU football, and those matchups with Jackson State would be back on. And you could once again have the original Southern Heritage Classic, because it would be a mandatory conference game each year. TSU would also position itself for a Celebration Bowl, which crowns the Black college football champions.
It’s vital thar Mikki Allen and the TSU Board of Trustees gets this right, as it will shape their entire athletics department for years to come.
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