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The first forum, held on December 16, 2016 as part of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, included lectures and panel discussions with NFL leadership and club executives, resume and skill-building workshops, a behind-the scenes look into football operations at the Celebration Bowl, and the opportunity to work with the event operations team on game day.
The forum is part of an NFL partnership with two preeminent Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) athletic conferences — the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — and is designed to increase opportunities for promising ethnic minorities who are interested in pursuing careers in football administration.
The partnership prepares both professionals and students with the skills necessary to successfully secure employment in professional football administration.
“Our partnership with the HBCUs is not only important for our pipeline of qualified individuals at all levels of football, but also to improve the NFL’s goals for diversity and inclusion,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. “With our HBCU partnership, we are making steady progress in developing future coaches, officials, scouts, managers, front office personnel and others through effective football resources, educational programs and internships.”
In addition to the NFL providing much-needed support to HBCU academic and athletic endeavors, MEAC and SWAC personnel will benefit from programs that include internships at the club and league level, integration of HBCU football operations staff — including athletic trainers, video directors and equipment managers — into existing NFL platforms such as the Regional Combines, and networking and mentorship opportunities.
“We are elated to continue our partnership with the National Football League, which includes our current officiating involvement, to advancing the NFL's diversity and inclusion initiatives with a strategic plan to increase diversity in all areas of employment at the league office and the clubs,” said Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner Dennis Thomas. “The MEAC is pleased to work collaboratively with the NFL to achieve its diversity and inclusion goals.”
A summit at the Celebration Bowl — the annual bowl game between the champions of the MEAC and SWAC, won by North Carolina A&T last season — featured panel discussions for the student-athletes who competed in the game from NFL and club personnel who have played college football and introduced the players to non-playing opportunities in pro football.
Top sports management students from the competing universities and entry-level athletic department administrators were permitted to attend a separate NFL-themed panel.
“The Southwestern Athletic Conference is excited to partner with the NFL and MEAC to ensure that our student-athletes and students have exposure to superior professional development and the different career contingencies that the NFL and professional sports have to offer.” said SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp. “The NFL-HBCU Partnership is cutting edge and will allow our stakeholders and respective organizations the opportunity to foster long term relationships that will ultimately increase our visibility from campuses to corner offices. We are grateful that the NFL has taken such a profound stance in recognizing the potential of our student athletes, administrators, coaches and officials.”
The NFL has a long association with HBCU institutions, which have helped mold and shape some of the greats of the game, including Pro Football Hall of Famers Walter Payton (Jackson State), Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Bob Hayes (Florida A&M), Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State) and Aeneas Williams (Southern).
“The partnership between the NFL and the HBCU conferences will be outstanding,” Williams said. “Many students, executives and other talented individuals who may not have known about all of the avenues available to them in the NFL off the field, will have more of a chance to engage in activities and opportunities that will prepare them for a rewarding career in the game that we all love.”
Each MEAC and SWAC school may send up to four participants (two students and two administrators). Participants apply for the forum and are selected by their institutions.
|Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference|
|Bethune-Cookman||Daytona Beach, FL|
|Coppin State||Baltimore, MD|
|Delaware State||Dover, DE|
|Florida A&M||Tallahassee, FL|
|Maryland Eastern Shore||Princess Anne, MD|
|Morgan State||Baltimore, MD|
|North Carolina A&T||Greensboro, NC|
|North Carolina Central||Durham, NC|
|Norfolk State||Norfolk, VA|
|Savannah State||Savannah, GA|
|South Carolina State||Orangeburg, SC|
|Southwestern Athletic Conference|
|Alabama A&M||Huntsville, AL|
|Alabama State||Montgomery, AL|
|Alcorn State||Lorman, MS|
|Arkansas-Pine Bluff||Pine Bluff, AR|
|Grambling State||Grambling, LA|
|Jackson State||Jackson, MS|
|Mississippi Valley State||Itta Bena, MS|
|Prairie View A&M||Prairie View, TX|
|Southern||Baton Rouge, LA|
|Texas Southern||Houston, TX|