Each year brings about its own story, woven through 12 long months of adventure. And before the clock strikes midnight on Day 365, we wish — just for a moment — we could hold on a little longer to see what unfolds next.
This year, 2014, was no different. It was a year of change within HBCU athletics. Whether it be in coaching, conference supremacy or unexpected partnerships for immediate moneymaking opportunities.
HBCU Sports takes a look back on the year that was.
MEAC football crowned five champions
Morgan State, who made the postseason for the first time in 35 years, received the league’s automatic bid after ending the regular season in a tie atop the standings with four other schools.
Thanks to a lengthy tiebreaker scenario, the Bears were granted to chance to lose in the first round of the FCS playoffs to Richmond.
Jackson State baseball was No. 1 if only for a day
Weeks before the JSU season ended, the charter bus carrying players, coaches and equipment literally caught fire during a road trip. After surviving the ordeal, the team figuratively caught fire winning the SWAC Tournament.
The Tigers, the lowest seed in the NCAA Tournament, pulled off a stunner by knocking off No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette in an opening round game.
The not so great Harold Jackson experience
Longtime football man Harold Jackson was brought back to his old stomping grounds to lead his alma mater, Jackson State, to the championship it failed to win under Rick Comegy in 2012 and 2013.
He didn’t do it in 2014. In fact, the Tigers helped Grambling, Prairie View and Mississippi Valley State pick up their first wins of the season.
It got so bad for Jackson, that a fan called the team an abomination in an online petition he started to get the first-year coach fired. JSU finished 5-7 in the SWAC East behind Alcorn State and Alabama State.
Earl Holmes’ bizarre firing
Let’s not pity former Florida A&M head coach Earl Holmes. He wasn’t that good at his job. After the Rattlers started the season 0-5, there were rumors that he would be axed.
Holmes was fired — leading up to the school’s homecoming game against Norfolk State. Then athletic director Kellen Winslow Sr., killed any good will he earned by effectively throwing a big bucket of ice water on what was supposed to be a celebration.
A kicker in the band
Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano wanted to get a few practice tries before the second half of a game against the Tampa Bay Bucs.
A Bethune-Cookman band member wanted to finish his halftime routine. Gano, who strolled out into the middle of the Wildcat band, pushed a trombone player a few feet to gather enough space to practice a 35-yarder. Made for a great Vine.
Kellen Winslow Sr. steps down as Florida A&M AD
His tenure only lasted a few months, but Kellen Winslow Sr. accomplished a lot. He pissed off alums, boosters and anyone associated with FAMU athletics with rhetoric about the business of sport being on its death bed.
He topped that by firing football coach Earl Holmes on Oct. 28 during homecoming week. It was so inappropriate that he made an apology. Nearly a month later, Winslow, after losing the support of the FAMU elite, resigned.
Texas Southern rules Sparty
Nobody knew how good Texas Southern basketball was going to be a season after winning the SWAC championship under Mike Davis. Few, though, thought TSU was going to be as good without leading scorer Aaric Murray.
Texas Southern started its season 1-8 capped off by a 40-point loss at No. 8 Gonzaga. No way they stood a chance to beat No. 25 Michigan State on Nov.20 in East Lansing, right?
Chris Thomas scored 22 points, and unheralded Texas Southern beat 25th-ranked Michigan State, outlasting the Spartans 71-64 in overtime. It was the worst loss of Tom Izzo’s career. It was the biggest win in the history of Texas Southern basketball. Wut.
A Brave new world
Four years ago, Alcorn State waited until the summer to hire Jay Hopson after firing Melvin Spears. Recruiting was over. There was little time to practice. Alcorn State somehow managed to win just two games during the regular season.
A minor miracle to say the least.
On Dec. 6, that same 2-win team was playing for the SWAC championship. The Braves seemed to belong in the game. They were not some upstart that had come out of nowhere.
They rolled through the schedule, winning nine games in dominating, spectacular fashion. Alcorn State completed their turnaround by smacking Southern right in their furry Jaguar mouths 38-24 in Houston.
Grambling State football rose from the ashes
We all pronounced Grambling State, as we all came to know them, dead after what only could be characterized as a tumultuous 2013 season that saw the program go through coaching changes amid a record losing streak and a team boycott that made national news.
Enter Broderick Fobbs, a third-string QB, seven-game winning streak and Grambling football was elite again. The Tigers came up just short of winning the SWAC West, however. But the ride was probably the college football story of the year.
They’re going bowling
The presidents of the MEAC and SWAC member schools agreed to play in a postseason football bowl game in 2015, according to Morgan State athletics director Floyd Kerr.
Kerr made a Dec. 20 call-in appearance to The Carlos Brown Show on WUBR-910 (Baton Rouge, La.) where he confirmed rumors that the MEAC would forego its automatic bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs to have its conference champion compete against the SWAC’s champion.
It’s a game, created by ESPN, Kerr says will pay each conference $1 million.
Jenkins bolts Bethune-Cookman for Alabama State
Brian Jenkins surprisingly broke up with Bethune-Cookman and accepted the head coaching job at Alabama State.
Jenkins, who was a decorated head coach at Bethune-Cookman, replaced Reggie Barlow, who was fired at the end of the 2014 season.
Happy New Year.