Nothing magnifies a situation like a cancellation does. Cancellations mean refunding of money and losing an opportunity that costs sponsors and other investors time and effort. As most of you know by now, the CIAA had to cancel it’s championship game his past weekend due to an incident involving a Winston Salem State player and a few Virginia State football players. The depth of the incident shows that the players involved made a rash and costly choice, and several people lost out in the process.
As a former CIAA player and a person with a vested interest in HBCU football, I felt as if the situation could have been handled differently. I am not sure the game should have been cancelled. In fact I am not even sure that was the best solution to the problem.
I understand why they made the decision they made. It makes sense to try to avoid any incidents under their watch, but here is where things get a little complicated for me. Knowing what I know, there would have probably been some residual effects of the incident from both sides. This is why I believe having the game would have been the best thing that could have happened.
Organizers should have met with participants on both teams and told them that there was a zero tolerance policy. Anything even remotely unsportsmanlike and inciting an incident will be an automatic ejection. A controlled environment was the perfect place for this type of situation.
If I am the coach of either team I want my kids to want to steal the other team’s joy. That will hurt far more than anything else they could have endured. Take their hearts on the field. Hit them hard. Make them pay with your pads and not your fists.
There are other elements to consider but that would have been fairly easy. Crowd control would be easy considering the location. It’s easy to separate the two sides when you play in that stadium. Just pick up security and make sure no one brings any weapons into the game.
Canceling the game in my mind brought unneeded national attention. Once the game got cancelled it wasn’t about Winston Salem State and Virginia State, it became an HBCU problem. The stigma is something that makes it tough for HBCU’s to function anyways. If this incident would have happened at the BIG 10 or the PAC-12 championship, I doubt either of these conferences would have cancelled the game. In fact, the chances of us even hearing about it would be pretty slim.
So where does that leave us? Even if the incident gets publicity and the cameras show up for the game, the opportunity to shine is there. Players who wouldn’t normally get television time would have gotten it. Sponsors would get seen by more people. Players and coaches get a chance to rebuke the stigma that goes with HBCU football.
Hindsight is 20/20 and I do understand why they did what they did. It was the easiest thing to do and in a lot of ways the safest form of recourse. Making tough decisions that adversely affect individuals, teams, sponsors, and fans are a part of the job. It’s never a bad idea to be safe; it’s just not always the best idea.
Historically black colleges and universities have a tough time marketing their product. Its not that they don’t have talent, because they do. They just have to deal with stigmas that lurk in the institutions. They can’t handle negative publicity. Fallout from HBCU incidents affect more than just the teams involved. As the USA today put it on Sunday… “Racially-Themed” incidents, get a lot of publicity whether they intend to or not.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!
Color Commentator for Time Warner Cable Sports Network NC/SC/OH and NCCU Sports Network. Washed up athlete who used to ball, now I write and call.