North Carolina Central football finished last year with a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletics Conference, split among three teams.
But, when the conference office released its 2016 TV schedule last week, the Eagles were the only one of the three left out of the mix.
N.C. A&T is scheduled to have three of its games telecast next fall. Bethune-Cookman will be on TV four times – including a home game against A&T on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Bethune-Cookman, N.C. A&T and NCCU each won a share of the conference title, with the Aggies winning the tiebreaker and advancing on to the inaugural Celebration Bowl.
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That was after the Eagles spanked A&T in Greensboro for a piece of their second straight title and second consecutive win over their archrival. The win was big enough to prompt NCCU coach Jerry Mack to brazenly predict at an alumni gathering: “I really believe deep down that we are going to three-peat and beat A&T for a third time.”
Hopefully, fans can find out whether or not that happens on ESPN3 on Nov. 19. That’s an open date on the MEAC’s TV schedule, to be telecast the same day as the Florida Classic, which will feature Bethune vs. Florida A&M.
Last season, the Eagles had to wait for the results of the Florida Classic to see if they were headed to the Celebration Bowl.
How exciting it would be if both matchups were televised the same day with the conference title on the line.
Kyle Serba, NCCU associate athletic director of media relations, wouldn’t comment on the team getting snubbed, but he did say there’s more to the story.
“ESPN tells the MEAC, ‘these are the slots we have available for you to broadcast games.’ The MEAC then looks at the schedule to see first, which facilities can accommodate the broadcast and, of those that can, what games are most compelling to brand the conference. We really don’t have any input on that.”
While televising a home game on ESPN has obvious advantages, it can come with a cost.
For instance, NCCU – which desperately needs a new press box – had to build a wall for last season’s televised matchup against Bethune-Cookman so the commentators and production people could be separated.
However, Serba said cost would never keep the university from saying yes.
“To pay somebody to build a wall is not the issue,” he continued. “It’s worth it for us to have the opportunity to brand our university on TV.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is moving a game from Saturday to Thursday night, which the Eagles have done in the past.
“Part of our budget comes from ticket sales, so if we have to move a game from Saturday to Thursday, tickets sales are negatively impacted.”
To give some credit to the conference office, it was smart to make one of the matchups on Nov. 19 a TBD game (“To Be Determined”). The conference can wait to see how things shake out in the season before making a decision on which game to televise.
After all, both NCCU and A&T could have subpar seasons, and some other team could be in the running for a title. Maybe?
Duke, NCCU will take part in Pigskin Preview
Regardless of the MEAC’s lineup, NCCU football will be televised at least once. The season-opening Bull City Gridiron Classic, featuring NCCU at Duke, is scheduled for ESPN3 on Sept. 3.
Duke’s David Cutcliffe and NCCU’s Jerry Mack are scheduled to appear in the annual Pigskin Preview, Monday, July 18 at the Embassy Suites in Cary. They’ll be joined there by head coaches Larry Fedora (North Carolina), Scottie Montgomery (East Carolina) and Dave Doeren (N.C. State).
Tickets for the luncheon, organized by the Bill Dooley Chapter of the National Football Foundation (NFF), are $60 for individuals.
Fans registered for the luncheon can submit a question in advance for any of the coaches by going to nffbilldooleychapter.org and writing the question in the “Contact Us” message box.
Eagle, Blue Devils nominated for NCAA award
NCCU alumnae Jenny Tracy and Duke’s Lauren Blazing and Megan Clark have been nominated for the 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year.
A record number of female student-athletes (517) were nominated this year, with more than 200 of them coming from NCAA Div. I programs.
The list will be whittled down to 30 (10 per division) in September.
Tracy graduated from NCCU in May as valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA. She played four seasons as a second baseman for NCCU’s softball team, and hit .307 with 42 hits and 18 RBIs as a senior.
She was selected as an Academic All-American in late May, and she won the Chancellor’s Award as the NCCU female student-athlete with highest GPA.
“During her tenure at NCCU, Jenny embodied the four pillars of the woman of the year award,” Director of Athletics Ingrid Wicker-McCree said. “She excelled academically and athletically, but she also committed to service and leadership in the numerous roles outside of athletics on campus and in the community.”
Blazing, who attended Durham Academy before heading to Duke, earned first team All-America honors from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association and first team Academic All-America distinction from the College Sports Information Directors of America . Over her four seasons in goal, Blazing compiled a 49-29 ledger and became just the seventh player in program history to earn All-America accolades on three or more occasions. She has also represented the program on the international level as a member of the U.S. women’s national team, earning her first international cap in February.
She also received a Heidrick Family Postgraduate Scholarship from Duke and an ACC postgraduate scholarship, in addition to being named the ACC Field Hockey Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second straight season.
During her senior year, Clark established Duke and ACC records in the outdoor women’s pole vault with a height of 15 feet, 2.5 inches (4.63m), set at the Duke Invitational on April 23. Her record-setting clearance ranked second in the nation among NCAA Div. I vaulters and fourth all-time in the NCAA outdoor records book.