If you think that Historically Black Colleges and Universities are inferior institutions of higher learning, then you’re not only wrong but part of a much larger problem.
But now and then, HBCUs get caught hustling backwards and make decisions that feed into that stereotype.
This is one of those moments for Hampton University and Jackson State University, as both schools have recently allowed former big-time Power 5 quarterbacks to transfer to their schools after dealing with allegations from violence against women.
Last week, former Florida State starting quarterback Deondre Francois enrolled at Hampton as a graduate transfer and has two seasons of eligibility left. In February, he was kicked off FSU’s team after a woman posted on Instagram that he abused her. She later recanted the entire story, as Francois wasn’t charged with a crime. However, in April 2018 he was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
“It’s a blessing to be here,” Francois told the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia. “Coming to a smaller school like this, it gives me a chance to focus.”
“I was in the spotlight at Florida State, but coming to Hampton, it gives me the opportunity to be in a more family-oriented program. In a smaller atmosphere, I can focus on my schoolwork and stay out of trouble.”
Back in May, Jackson State welcomed former University of Florida quarterback, Jalon Jones, after two women accused him of sexual battery. And although the women declined to file charges, things were so uncomfortable that his roommate, Chris Steele, transferred to Oregon due to how the football staff handled his request as he tried to get away from Jones by asking to be placed in a different dorm.
HBCUs have a history of producing some of our best and brightest in the classroom and on the playing field. And while they’ve also given students opportunities to educate themselves when other schools wouldn’t, what does it say when we’re ignoring our core values for the chance to win a few more football games?
Since Francois and Jones didn’t show HBCUs any love on the recruiting trail, I don’t think Hampton and JSU should have been so eager to answer their calls.
Don’t run to HBCUs after the predominantly white institutions are done with you.
And while it’s understandable why four and five-star recruits would want to play on national TV and at schools that have million-dollar facilities, it’s also disrespectful for them to totally ignore the Hamptons and Jackson States of the world when they’re being recruited, given that HBCUs used to, and still are, sending guys to the NFL.
In 2017, Caylin Newton broke out of his older brother’s shadow, Cam Newton, when the then-true freshman led Howard to the biggest point-spread upset in college football history after they knocked off UNLV 43-40. Newton told ESPN that he picked Howard because they gave him a chance to play and because of the school’s reputation as an elite HBCU.
“That’s the best thing that ever happened to me, coming to Howard. If I didn’t come to Howard, none of this would have happened,” he said.
And last August, Kayvon Thibodeaux made waves when he made an unofficial visit to Florida A&M University as the No. 1 ranked recruit in the country.
“The moral of the trip was FAMU,” Thibodeaux told me last year in an exclusive interview. “I didn’t just take the trip to go see Florida State, and then just happened to be at FAMU. My whole plan was to go visit FAMU. Florida State was having a camp, so I just went over to the camp.”
As a California native, Thibodeaux wanted to get a small taste of a true southern HBCU experience.
“Before I became highly recruited, I always wanted to go to an HBCU. And being who I am now, it gives me an opportunity to,” he explained.
“I’m big on culture and paying homage. Even when I went on a visit to Alabama, I went by the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that was in the movie ‘Selma’. For me, I have a lot of friends that aren’t that highly recruited and might not be getting offers and then they go to a junior college. So why go to a junior college when you can go to an HBCU? I just feel like every high school African-American athlete should check out an HBCU.”
Even at the age of 17, Thibodeaux understood the importance and value of HBCUs despite ultimately choosing a football powerhouse like Oregon. And to his point, since Francois and Jones didn’t have the time of day for HBCUs in the past, why didn’t they choose a mid-major or junior college instead of Hampton and JSU?
Only they can answer that, as Hampton and JSU will one day be able to look back and decide if it was worth it.
HBCUs are important as they’ve ever been, especially given the political climate we’re living in. And while athletics will never be as high of a priority for us as it is at Power 5 schools, HBCUs were built to provide students with things that money can’t buy, like a sense of self, a love for our culture and people, and an experience like no other.
Those things should never be devalued and given away just because someone can throw a spiral.
Because if Francois and Jones were just looking for a place to resurrect their football careers, they could have chosen one of those schools on “Last Chance U.”
Carron J. Phillips is a proud alum of Morehouse College. And while his alma mater has been in the news recently, and in the past years, for their inability to correctly investigate and handle sexual misconduct and assault allegations, he’s hoping that other HBCUs learn from his school’s multiple disheartening mistakes.