Strengthening HBCUs

The NFL is committed to increasing opportunities for students and administrators from HBCUs.

The NFL is proud of its long history with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and is committed to strengthening the ongoing partnership.

Through programs and initiatives across the country, the league celebrates the impact of HBCUs and their players, and works to increase opportunities for students and athletic administrators from these institutions.

These initiatives honor the rich history of HBCUs and the NFL, while looking towards the future.

Careers in Football Forum 

The NFL launched the Careers in Football Forum in 2016 in partnership with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), and has since expanded to also include the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) — four preeminent HBCU athletic conferences. The Forum increases opportunities for promising ethnic minorities who want to pursue careers in football administration.

Panel discussion at the NFL Careers in Football Forum.

Panel discussion at the NFL Careers in Football Forum.

The fifth annual Forum was held virtually in December 2020. More than 150 students from HBCUs attended the annual forum. The event brings together undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in sports management to explore careers and network with industry leaders.

Participants are selected by their institutions through an application-based process, and have the opportunity to: 

  • Attend lectures and panel discussions with NFL leadership and club executives
  • Take part in resume and skill-building workshops
  • Get a behind-the-scenes look at football operations at the Celebration Bowl

“We've teamed up with four preeminent HBCU athletic conferences for the Careers in Football Forum to increase opportunities for the next generation of leaders in football administration,” said Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

Programming at the virtual 2020 HBCU Careers in Football Forum included panel discussions led by senior leaders from the league, clubs and NFL partners, as well as open forum breakouts sessions. 

Campus Connection Program

The NFL and Howard University partnered to launch the Campus Connection program.

The NFL and Howard University partnered to launch the Campus Connection program.

The NFL and Howard University launched the Campus Connection program in 2018. The initiative introduces and prepares students for potential careers in professional football administration.

“Campus Connection is part of our ongoing and continuous commitment to celebrating the impact HBCUs have had on the game of professional football, driving awareness around career opportunities, and providing access to the business of sport,” said Vincent.

The NFL’s presence on Howard’s campus extends through several programs, including an executive lecture series, a student-lab case study class partnership, and the Howard School of Business Sports and Entertainment Summit.

The inaugural summit, held at Howard in September 2018, introduced more than 300 young professionals to opportunities in the sports and entertainment industry. Rhoden Fellow and Howard alumnus Paul Holston interviewed Vincent. Other industry leaders from the NBA, MLB and more participated in panel discussions, workshops and networking events.

NFL-Rhoden Fellows

To increase career opportunities for students from HBCUs, the NFL partnered with The Undefeated’s Rhoden Fellows Initiative, a one-year training program for the next generation of sports journalists.

NFL-Rhoden Fellows Blog
An Experience Like No Other

NFL-Rhoden Fellows Blog

An Experience Like No Other

Led by Undefeated editor-at-large and former New York Times award-winning columnist William C. Rhoden, the collaboration introduces HBCU undergraduate students to all aspects of sports journalism — beyond the broadcast booth and the traditional newsroom.

The NFL hosted two Rhoden Fellows, Tucker Toole (Morehouse College) and Janae Adams (Clark Atlanta University), and students Shala Murray (Spelman College) and Bundrea Conway (Morehouse College) at Super Bowl LIII for an HBCU Experienceship. The all-day shadowing program gave the students a behind-the-scenes look at Super Bowl Week operations throughout Atlanta, including visits to the Legends Lounge, Broadcast Bowl and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

HBCU Experienceship participants (L-R) Tucker Toole, Shala Murray, Janae Adams and Bundrea Conway.

HBCU Experienceship participants (L-R) Tucker Toole, Shala Murray, Janae Adams and Bundrea Conway.

HBCU Battle of the Brains Competition

2019 HBCU Battle of the Brains recap.

HBCU Battle of the Brains addresses inequities in industries in which Black and Brown representation is lacking by bringing top students and industry leaders together to showcase students’ skills through industry-specific skills challenges, mentoring and professional development. In addition to the competition, students will participate in company tours, facilitated workshops and panel discussions to grow their skill sets and learn from professionals.

Students compete for more than $50,000 in college scholarships and bragging rights in the hackathon-style event.

The NFL is committed to continuing this historic partnership and celebration of HBCUs and their players.

Advocacy in Sport Workshop 

In 2019, the NFL, Morehouse College and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) hosted the second Advocacy in Sport Workshop in Atlanta. NFL Legends, athletes from other sports, and select students learned how to develop and implement effective advocacy platforms.

“Athletes have a unique ability to bring people together for solution-driven conversations that can bring about real change.”


The three-day Advocacy in Sport Workshop curriculum provided athletes with tools and resources to create positive change, including insight into organizational development, relationship management and media relations best practices.

“Sport has been an international venue for social change since before Jesse Owens swept the 1936 Olympics and opened the world’s eyes to the image of justice and equality,” said Vincent. “This historic workshop is aimed at training the next generation of athletes who wish to use sport as a powerful platform for advocacy.”