Tuskegee Institute is The First HBCU Baseball Team to compete in NCAA Regionals:
Contrary to the Jackson State Myth
A myth is circulating on social media that Jackson State University is the first HBCU baseball program to qualify for the NCAA Regional Baseball Tournament. Jackson State’s claim is a fallacy. Usually, the myth appears in non-qualifying terms: “The 1982 Jackson State Baseball team was the first HBCU team to ever qualify for NCAA Regionals.”
When called out about this rewriting of Black history, the Jackson State alums will quickly qualify their assertion with the caveat, “We are referring to D-I NCAA competition.” But nowhere in their initial posts is there such clarity.
Their caveat still belies the truth of the matter. History records that the NCAA did not align as divisions I, II, and III until 1973. Before 1973, the NCAA had a two-tier playoff system that grouped prominent colleges, universities, and smaller schools into different classes for post-season purposes.
In 1969, Tuskegee Institute qualified for the NCAA Mideast Regionals in the small school class. That year Jackson State was considered a small school. None of the Black colleges were in the big school class. Tuskegee was coached by Ralph Bishop and the top players were Obadiah Threadgill, Woodrow Draper, James Player, and Leon Allen.
While Tuskegee was champion of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) that year, conference championship status alone did not qualify them for an invitation to the NCAA regionals. A Black school had to gain an invitation based on their volume of work. Tuskegee had a hard-hitting team with good defense and strong pitching.
The Mideast Regionals were held in Cleveland, Mississippi, hosted by Delta State College. Also competing in the Mideast Regionals were Illinois State University and Valparaiso University. Tuskegee was 0–2 in the double-elimination tournament.
In 1972, ten years before Jackson State appeared in the NCAA Regionals, Tuskegee Institute returned to the NCAA Mideast Regionals held in Jackson, Tennessee, at Union…