UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond is reaching back to his roots, scheduling the Bruins football team to play two historically black universities in the next two years. The Bruins will face off against the Alabama State University Hornets in 2022 and host the North Carolina Central University Eagles in 2023.
Jarmond’s mother attended NCCU, while his father graduated from the Eagles’ rival school, North Carolina A&T State University. “Adding two HBCUs to our football schedule is special,” Jarmond said in a statement. “It’s exciting to give our student-athletes and fans a new experience and to bring a little bit of the South to Southern California.”
For each HBCU, defeating UCLA may be a bit of a longshot. The Bruins’ football budget, which tops $37 million, is more than Alabama State’s ($3.5 million) and NCCU’s ($4.4 million) combined—multiplied by four. Of course, that affords UCLA more resources to recruit topnotch high school prospects and build state-of-the-art facilities. But that’s not to say there isn’t a win in it for the HBCUs.
Alabama State will receive $590,000 from UCLA to play. The school’s 200-plus-person marching band, known as “The Mighty Marching Hornets,” will also attend and participate in the game. UCLA will also give Alabama State 400 complimentary tickets. The Eagles will collect slightly more, at $700,000. Like Alabama State, NCCU will also have its marching band in attendance with 400 complimentary tickets.
UCLA and both HBCUs have agreed upon damages if any party were to cancel the game. If the Bruins-Hornets game is canceled, the breaching party would have to pay $1.2 million to the other party. Since the Bruins’ game against the Eagles is more than two years away, if either party were to infringe upon the agreement the penalty would be $1.5 million.
However, there are cases where no party will be considered to have breached the contract. And given the last 18 months, the contracts include pandemic and quarantining protections, alongside other natural disasters or acts of God, like fire, flood and earthquakes. Also carved out is a curious hypothetical, which allows the game to be called off without penalty if: “a party becomes obligated, as a condition of athletic conference membership or affiliation, to play a greater number of regular season games against conference-designated opponents than it is currently obligated to play against conference-designated opponents in the regular season of the canceled game.”
In a clear nod to the Southeastern Conference accepting Texas and Oklahoma in 2025, UCLA has left itself room to adapt to the expected shifts coming to the college sports landscape. After the change, the SEC will have 16 schools, likely meaning eight in-conference football games instead of seven. That leaves even fewer out-of-conference games to be scheduled. Thus, these early-season FBS versus FCS matchups may be harder to come by in the future.
UCLA’s conference, the Pac-12, recently announced a strategic alliance with the Big Ten and ACC designed to bring new interconference football and basketball games to the forefront, in hopes of competing with the SEC for television viewership and media rights money. All together, the three Power Five conferences include 40 schools.
As the complex web of conference realignment begins to unfurl, the future of these guarantee games will be in flux, delivering a big financial blow to small schools like Alabama State and NCCU and potentially exacerbating the chasm between the haves and have-nots of college athletics.