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SWAC series provides Pac-12 Basketball teams a chance to visit and learn about HBCUs

Oct 31, 2022

Glancing quickly at Colorado’s 2022-23 men's basketball schedule, one might pause when getting to Nov. 11. “At Grambling State,” it reads. Shouldn’t that “at” be a “vs”? Schools like Grambling State are supposed to be making the trip to Boulder, not the other way around. Shouldn’t this be a traditional “guarantee game”?

That’s no mistake on the schedule, and Colorado isn’t the only Pac-12 school making such a trip. It’s all part of the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series, an initiative set up to create a partnership between the two leagues not only from a scheduling standpoint, but also from an educational perspective. Pac-12 and SWAC schools hope these games and surrounding educational opportunities will help shine a light on HBCUs and educate people on the social injustices that still plague society.

“We’re going to use that week leading up to that game to help educate our players and our coaches and everybody in our program, managers, about the historical significance of HBCUs and specifically maybe Grambling and what’s gone on in the past,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said at Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day. “It’s a great opportunity for us to reflect on that and get these guys to understand what these colleges and what these programs have been through through the years.”

This is the first partnership between a power conference and an HBCU league. The Pac-12 and SWAC have set up a series where Pac-12 and SWAC schools play on each other’s campuses. Pac-12 teams get to learn about the historical significance of HBCUs and further their knowledge on social justice issues.

Meanwhile, SWAC schools get the opportunity to host power-conference opponents, which is a rarity for schools that largely have to play grueling non-conference schedules filled with road games against power-conference schools to bring in money to support the entire athletic department.

“These teams are very under-resourced, and they’re forced to basically go on the road constantly. As a result, it becomes very difficult for them even if they have a talented team to get selected to the NCAA Tournament,” Pac-12 Deputy Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich said. “We thought it would be meaningful if we offered to do a true sort of series, like Power 5 leagues have done, but actually play road games.”

As a result of this initiative, some Pac-12 student-athletes have already had the opportunity to journey to the center of the civil rights movement in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, walking on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and visiting the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum in Montgomery that focuses on the historical legacy of slavery in the United States.

Washington State guard and team captain TJ Bamba is looking forward to the opportunity to get the chance to visit the Prairie View A&M campus when his Cougars take on the Panthers Nov. 15.

“I’m from New York, the Bronx, it’s primarily Black people there. Not a lot of people get the same opportunities as other people would in suburban areas and other states,” Bamba said. “Seeing people like myself from different communities going to Black colleges, historically black communities and whatever, they’re there so that they can be given an opportunity to be great and prosper and extend their creativity among everybody.

“So just being able to partner with them and then play against them, it’s an opportunity for them, and it’s an opportunity for us to learn more about the history that goes on down there.”

Three Pac-12 men’s basketball teams make the trek to SWAC country this season, with Arizona State visiting Texas Southern on Nov. 13 in addition to the road contests for Colorado and Washington State.

Additionally, two Pac-12 women’s teams will head to SWAC territory before conference play hits, with Oregon heading to Southern on Nov. 14 and Utah trekking to Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 1 (three Pac-12 men’s teams and four Pac-12 women’s teams also host SWAC schools this season).

“It’s about much more than the men’s basketball competition,” Zaninovich said. “I think the vision of our athletic directors and our coaches is also to sort of educate both ways, to open the eyes of our players to the importance of HBCUs in this country, both historically and in the future, and the other way around.”

The Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series officially kicks off when Oregon hosts Florida A&M on Nov. 7 in a game that is televised on Pac-12 Oregon.