Bethune-Cookman, Grambling tie for BCSP top spot
We were emphatically half-right. The Tigers of Tuskegee and Grambling proved us wrong. Tuskegee and Grambling won third straight championships in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences respectively in what many, including us, thought would be down years.
But our prognostications were on point as both the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference did indeed crown new kingpins.
MEAC champion Bethune-Cookman and Grambling share the top spot in the final Black College Sports Page rankings for 2002 because we feel they are the two best teams that proved it on the field of play.
Alvin Wyatt's B-CC Wildcats completed an outstanding 11-2 season, getting his first win over nemesis Florida A&M, a big 37-10 victory allowing them to clinch the MEAC crown and earn their first-ever trip to the I-AA playoffs. Only a loss to Hampton when the 'Cats played without star quarterback Allen Suber kept them from a perfect regular season. The Wildcats lost to I-AA semifinalist Georgia Southern in the first round of the playoffs.
Grambling won its third straight SWAC title under Doug Williams, posting an 11-2 overall mark with losses to begin and end the regular season to McNeese State, the top-ranked NCAA Div. I-AA team that plays Saturday for the national title, and Southern at the Bayou Classic.
B-CC and Grambling outperformed Tuskegee, who had the best overall mark (10-1) but struggled against lesser teams despite only losing to Albany State. The Golden Tigers, who just lost head coach Rick Comegy last week to Norfolk State, finishes third.
The biggest jumps in the rankings were by #4 Alabama A&M (8-4), #5 Morgan State (7-5) and #8 Fayetteville State (10-2), teams not ranked in the Top Ten coming into the season.
A&M was the surprise team in the SWAC, moving past Jackson State and Alcorn State, teams that made our preseason Top Ten, and defending champion Alabama State to earn the SWAC East Division title. First-year coach Anthony Jones' Bulldogs got wins over the latter two, and narrowly lost to Jackson State as they won eight of their final nine regular season games after opening 0-2.
Morgan State, under new head coach Donald Hill-Eley, won six of its last seven games to catch Florida A&M and Hampton for second place in the MEAC. Only a 17-14 loss at Norfolk State's homecoming interrupted the Bears' run and prevented them from finishing alone in second.
Head coach Kenny Phillips' Broncos of FSU ran the table in the CIAA and captured the school's first-ever conference title. FSU advanced to the NCAA Div. II playoffs, giving the CIAA its first entrant since 1993. They lost in the first round to Carson-Newman. Their other loss was to Catawba, who also made the D-2 playoff field.
Florida A&M (7-5, #6) and Jackson State (7-4, #9) entered the season with high hopes and heralded quarterbacks that ended up being upstaged. FAMU transfer Casey Printers battled injuries and never really made an impact on the Rattlers' season while Suber soared for Bethune-Cookman, surpassing 1,000 yards both as a passer and runner. JSU passer extraordinaire Robert Kent had a good season (306.7 yards per game, 31 TDs) but didn't compare to the great one Grambling QB Bruce Eugene had (4,780 passing yards, 43 TDs, 5,428 total offensive yards).
Albany State (7-4), under head coach James White, won seven of its last eight including wins over Tuskegee, Morehouse and Fort Valley State after beginning the season 0-3. The Golden Rams finished tenth in the final rankings.
© 2002 Azeez Communications, Inc.