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SIAC will have football and basketball games on ESPN in 2021-22 seasons

The 22-game football schedule begins with the Red Tails Classic

The inaugural Red Tails Classic game between Tuskegee and Fort Valley State will be among the 22 football games broadcast this year as part of a new multiyear agreement between the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and ESPN.

The Classic, to be played in Montgomery, Alabama, on Sept. 5, will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. The game is a college football event launched by ESPN Events to showcase historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Besides football, ESPN has the exclusive rights to the SIAC’s men’s and women’s basketball tournament preliminary rounds on ESPN+, and the championship games on ESPN networks.

The deal, which will run through 2027, allows the SIAC to showcase the institutions and student-athletes on a national stage.

“The SIAC has long been a leader in fan attendance at the NCAA Division II level. This partnership with ESPN to televise football and basketball will help increase the brand recognition of our member institutions while spotlighting our athletes on the biggest stage,” said Anthony Holloman, Fort Valley State’s athletic director.

The opportunity for these HBCUs to stream on ESPN+ provides them with the exposure they have previously been given for only a few games. ESPN+ will allow viewers to see sports and competitions they haven’t had an opportunity to see before.

“We are delighted to expand ESPN’s relationship with the SIAC for the next several years,” said Dan Margulis, ESPN senior director of programming and acquisitions. “One of the top NCAA Division II conferences in the country, we look forward to being the home for many of the SIAC’s biggest football and basketball matchups as we further spotlight their talented student-athletes and member institutions and continue our commitment to supporting HBCU athletics.”

Willie Slater, Tuskegee’s athletic director, said the opportunity to play before national audiences will help in recruiting.

“Anytime you can get exposure for your university, particularly when you don’t normally get that exposure, is a positive thing. All you need is that one guy, you know, that one guy that wouldn’t normally come to your university, to decide that he’s going to come and be a part of your program.”

Benedict College athletic director Willie Washington hopes the potential exposure his athletes will receive will generate interest from prospective young student-athletes as well.

“I think being on a national stage platform will help, for one, it will help with recruiting. Students, in general, will be able to see the quality across the SIAC. More specifically, Benedict feels like we have one of the top programs. Therefore, we know that this would just add to trending the overall opportunities for more individuals to see what we have to offer here at the college,” said Washington.

Collegiate Sports Management Group (CSMG) had a hand in structuring this agreement between the conference and ESPN. CSMG works with college athletic conferences and schools to provide them with growth strategies that generate revenue to support their athletic departments and initiatives.

“We are privileged to represent the SIAC and support these superb institutions. By working with ESPN, the industry leader in sports television and streaming, the SIAC can showcase competitive games and talented student-athletes while securing crucial exposure for the conference and its constituents,” said CSMG chief operating officer Ray Katz, who led the team that advised the SIAC.

Calvin Sykes is a graduate student in sports science at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Fla. A native of Miami, Sykes was the sideline reporter for the Florida A&M Rattlers football from 2018-2020, program director for the school’s radio station WANM FM 90.5, and has written for HBCU GameDay.

Cayla Sweazie is a member of the Andscape social team and is probably making a TikTok right now. She is a former HBCU athlete (Go Bears) who now covers HBCU sports, lifestyle and culture.