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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)


Disparity in college athletics is nothing new. College football just has shinier and more glaring examples of it.

For every University of Texas, there's a program with facilities out-done by big-time high schools.

That money divide, thanks to mainly to huge television deals, becomes even worse when the comparison showcases SEC and Big 10 teams against historically black colleges and universities, like Grambling State, whose facilities were so decrepit that athletes boycotted.

"Mid-major schools have challenges in meeting their financial needs. I don't think that is just something that is principally an issue for historically black colleges (and universities)," said Tennessee State athletic director, Teresa Phillips.

While Tennessee State is an HBCU, the program plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, a true mid-major conference.

Guarantee games, aka "money games," is one way those programs fill that gap.

This is an important practice across the FCS, but for the 24 HBCUs in Division I football that are often among the poorest public athletic departments, it's even more so. In the 2015-16 USA TODAY financial report, seven of the eight poorest public athletic departments in Division I were either HBCUs or majority black schools.

Now Vanderbilt has made it a mission to create more opportunities for HBCU programs.

Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason told members of the media at SEC Media Days about his shared mission with Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams to build partnerships with HBCUs, specifically programs in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

"The mindset between Mr. Williams and myself is that black college football needs an opportunity to grow as well. And anytime that we can partner with groups like the SWAC in order to make sure that they can survive and be financially set for what they are trying to do," said Mason.

In the four years with Mason at the helm, Vanderbilt has now scheduled three games with an HBCU program, 2016 and 2018 TSU and the Alabama A&M game this Saturday.

Since 2010, Vanderbilt is one of only three SEC programs to schedule multiple games with HBCUs, with only nine SEC v. HBCU match-ups occurring in that seven year period. Near-constant SEC champion Alabama has not played an HBCU program during that span.

"That's pretty cool to see a coach on that level have the insight to understand the financial restraints that we have at this level and be willing to play us, which enables us to not only play a quality team, but to also help us financially," Rod Reed, the TSU football coach said.

Mason explained, "Everybody needs a venue and (with) this partnership ... we are going to try to continue to move forward to make sure to keep football alive in every venue because football is under attack.".

Reach Autumn Allison at or follow her on Twitter: @Aallison_TN.

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September 9, 2017


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