By Dr. J. Kenyatta Cavil and Brandon Bolden
Inside the HBCU Huddle Columnists
College Sporting News
The No. 1 Bearkats of Sam Houston State (14-0, 7-0 - Southland) will face the No. 2 Bison of North Dakota State (13-1, 7-1 - Missouri Valley) for that ultimate prize tomorrow.
It is obvious by all the statistical and ranking indicators that the two best teams in the division today are playing in this game.
It is even more fitting that Sam Houston State and North Dakota State are both in search of their first FCS title. By tomorrow afternoon one program will have reached their destination.
While, both teams are especially strong on the defensive side of the ball with the nation's two top-scoring defenses, in charting the course for this opportunity, from a historical stand point the two programs have traveled different paths.
Sam Houston State is an upstart program under second year coach Willie Fritz (20-5 record) that was just 6-5 a year ago.
While the Bearkats have been knocking on the door in their relatively recent past, they have not been to the FCS playoffs since 2004 at which time they reached the semifinals resulting in a road lost against Montana, 34-14.
The current road to the championship game featured home wins against Stony Brook, 34-27; Montana State, 49-13; and a revenged home semifinal win over Montana, 31-28.
The Bearkats are ranked second in scoring defenses at 14.8 points per game.
Sam Houston State is equally as explosive on the offensive side of the ball, evident by their top ranking in scoring offenses with 39.1 points per game.
The Bison have recently transitioned from Division II to Division I FCS in 2008 finishing that season at 6-5, after a successful lower division football run which included eight titles at the Division II level.
Under the guidance of now eighth-year head coach Craig Bohl (74-31); North Dakota State made the playoffs last season, their first FCS playoff appearance.
The road to this highest level championship game featured home wins against James Madison, 26-14; Lehigh, 24-0; and Georgia Southern, 35-7.
North Dakota State is ranked first in scoring defenses giving up only 13.2 points per game.
NCAA Division I Football Championship Game prediction: Bearkats 27 over Bison 21
So, what will it take for a HBCU program to make a run at the Division I football championship?
According to The Mid-Majority Institute of Basketball Research one major factor would require HBCUs to increase their average athletic budget and football budget to the mean of a conference that has dominated the tournament, such as the Colonial Athletic Association (winners of four of the last nine titles and had teams playing in seven of the last nine championship games).
In 2010-11, the average athletic budget for the CAA was $19.5M compared to the OVC (Tennessee State), MEAC and SWAC with $9.3M, $7.9M and $5.5M budgets, respectively.
Kids pay colleges to receive an education and earn a degree, and if they are athletes, to win championships. So the key word is investment.