GREENSBORO — The first HBCU World Series, an event built around a baseball game between N.C. A&T and Southern University at the Chicago White Sox’ ballpark, has been canceled.
The game between the MEAC’s Aggies (29-24) and SWAC’s Jaguars (30-19) was supposed to be played at 1 p.m. Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field on Chicago’s south side.
But concerns over travel and a dicey weather forecast caused the game to be scrapped before either team left home. The game was organized and promoted by Chicago-based BCSG 360, a non-profit that aims to connect urban youth with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“We’re sad but certainly understand the rationale for why they needed to cancel,” A&T athletics director Earl Hilton said. “The (promoter) was covering all the travel costs including the hotels and stuff. It was almost a revenue-neutral situation for us, only a $5,000 guarantee they would’ve paid to us. They were absorbing all the other costs.”
The costs ran higher than anticipated, BCSG 360 founder Prentiss Hill said, and the teams were asked to bus to Chicago instead of flying. The drive to Chicago is roughly 890 miles for Southern and 730 miles for A&T.
“There are a couple things we did not plan for, and we learned from those situations,” Hill said. “We’re dealing with a limited budget, and the travel piece for both programs wasn’t right. Both programs are excellent programs, championship-caliber programs, and they are deserving of being treated as such for an event like this. And we better understand what that means now. We’re accountable for that.”
A&T won an MEAC title last season and won the league’s Southern Division this season. Southern won the SWAC title and will play in the NCAA tournament next week, making travel a paramount concern for the Jaguars.
“The first obligation is travel,” Southern AD Roman Banks told The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate. “They downsized the travel and didn’t meet the expectations of the arrangements in the contract. It was supposed to be a flight to Chicago. We were looking to work with them, even talking about buses and being able to stop overnight, but the buses weren’t in place.”
Also, weather in Chicago has been blustery, cold and rainy the last two weeks. It was 74 degrees and sunny today, but Friday’s forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms.
“It’s not fair to the teams,” Hill said, “to ask them to bus 14 or 18 hours. We made that ask this time, and they were willing. But in the final analysis, based on the threat of weather, to … put those teams in a situation where they get to Chicago and, God forbid, the game is called, it would be kind of hard to swallow, you know, ‘We came all this way on a bus for a game that got called in the third inning?’ The risk vs. reward just doesn’t add up.”
That doesn’t mean the HBCU World Series is dead.
Hill said BCSG 360 is working on playing the game in September. Hill’s group arranged college and career fairs built around the game, with sponsors including American Airlines, Amazon, the U.S. Army and City College of Chicago. And 3,000 free tickets have been set aside for Chicago Public Schools children.
“To get it in for 2019, the only option we have now is to play it in the fall,” Hill said. “We would love to have A&T and Southern University be a part of the event. … We’re restructuring, using the lessons we’ve learned and addressing those (travel) issues.”
If the issues were solved, A&T would be receptive, Hilton said.
“From our perspective, the upside of this was the chance to play some more baseball — especially our seniors — and also have the chance to play on a major league field," Hilton said. “The experience was what we looked forward to for our young people, the opportunity to keep playing for another week and to play on that stage. That was very attractive to us. I’m sorry it’s not going to happen for our seniors, but I hope it can in the future.”