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Morgan Hires Wheatley But Is It For the Long Term

THE AFRO — When announcing former NFL running back Tyrone Wheatley as their new head football coach, Morgan State pushed all the chips into the center of the table.



By Mark F. Gray

When announcing former NFL running back Tyrone Wheatley as their new head football coach, Morgan State pushed all the chips into the center of the table.  Great poker players are stoic when gambling that the hand they are holding is enough to win. If the pot is great enough and you win, it’s time to cash out then keep things moving.

Morgan’s athletic director Ed Scott did a masterful job bringing an NFL assistant to a program that has been an afterthought for generations.  The history and legacy of the “Golden Bears” under legendary figures such as Eddie Hurt and Earl Banks live in the archives of college football lore. However, there aren’t too many people around who remember the days when Morgan’s program was a destination for premiere athletes and coaches that were looking to make a name for themselves.

If this hire proves successful and the Bears win a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship it will open doors to new opportunities for Wheatley to begin his ascent back to the major college ranks or to the NFL.  Morgan, like most HBCU jobs, is a stepping stone opportunity for coaches such as Wheatley to make a name for themselves instead of creating a legacy.

In one of his last major acts as MSU’s athletic director, Floyd Kerr hired Lee Hull from Randy Edsall’s staff at Maryland.  It worked to perfection in Hull’s first season where he took Donald Hill-Eley’s team and coached them to their first MEAC title in 30 years.  It didn’t matter that they shared the title with four other teams.  The complicated five-way tie meant the Bears represented the MEAC in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs.

The pride in the program was palpable and seemed to restore faith in generations of Bear fans who never thought they would ever see winning football in northeast Baltimore again. Hull was expected to be the man who would ignite the memories of Banks with a program that would contend for conference championships consistently.

Unfortunately, it never happened.

Two years later Hull packed his furniture in a new version of the Mayflower moving trucks and went to work for the Indianapolis Colts as wide receiver’s coach.  He left the program on academic probation and they haven’t had a winning season since.  Hull cashed in on his immediate success and for the last three years Morgan has been led by two coaches with extended interim tags: Fred Farrier and Ernest Jones.

Hull personifies the dilemma that HBCUs now face when trying build a program these days.  There is an unspoken acceptance amongst coaches with the pedigree of Wheatley. You don’t coach at Black colleges too long or you’ll be stuck there.  If Scott is on his A-game he has already recognized that as soon as the ink dried on Wheatley’s signed contract there had better be a game plan ready for his departure.

After earning a stellar reputation as one of the nation’s top recruiters, Wheatley probably has a pipeline of talent that could change the fortunes of the program over the next 24 months.  He will be able to sell recruits having played for the New York Giants, coached at Michigan and most recently with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Morgan would be foolish to look at this as a long term relationship.  It will never be a marriage.   At best they can only hope it’s an extended fling that leads to another championship ring before Wheatley’s gone.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Student Freedom Initiative Launches Inaugural Program at HBCUs Across U.S.

Inspired by Robert F. Smith’s 2019 “Morehouse Gift,’ Initiative will provide STEM majors at 9 HBCUs a more equitable alternative to fund their education



Inspired by Robert F. Smith's 2019 'Morehouse Gift,' the Student Freedom Initiative will provide stem majors at 9 HBCUs with a more equitable alternative to fund their education.

The Student Freedom Initiative (SFI), an organization that provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors income-contingent funding in lieu of traditional college loans that have long wreaked havoc on their financial futures, launched on nine HBCU campuses across the country on September 7.

Inspired by the 2019 gift by Robert F. Smith to Morehouse College graduates that erased 100% of student loan debt for them and their parents, the Student Freedom Initiative was created by Smith to further alleviate the longstanding financial burdens Black students face, disproportionate to their white counterparts.

The inaugural list of institutions includes: Claflin University, Clark Atlanta University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Prairie View A&M University, Tougaloo College, Tuskegee University, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

“Through the Student Freedom Initiative, we hope to give Black students access to the education they need to move forward in this economy without the burden of student loan debt stopping them from realizing their fullest potential,” said Smith who serves as chairman of the Student Freedom Initiative. “While our community continues to face inequities that too often bar young students of color from accessing quality higher education, the Student Freedom Initiative aims to empower our students with the tools they need to control their financial futures.”

On average, Black students who graduate with bachelor’s degrees accrue $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. This gap only widens across the gender divide, with Black women carrying roughly 20% more student debt than white women, owing an estimated $41,466 in undergraduate loans compared to the $33,851 white women owe.

To address the unequal financial burden faced by these students, the Student Freedom Initiative created its Student Freedom Agreement, an income-contingent funding agreement based on a ‘pay it forward’ concept, meaning payments are only made when the individual is working. SFI has begun dispersing Student Freedom Agreement funds to eligible junior and senior STEM majors attending one of its nine inaugural partner schools.

HBCU students have traditionally been more likely than non-HBCU students to turn to Parent PLUS or private loans for additional funding to cover remaining costs for their education. On average, 63% of students at HBCUs rely on Parent Plus loans. The resulting default rate is five times as high in the Black community when compared to their white counterparts, and the average debt is twice as high in the Black community as long as four years after graduation.

“We are taking a holistic approach to support and empower our students,” said Mark Brown, executive director of the Student Freedom Initiative. “Not only are we providing our students financing to pursue their education, but the Student Freedom Initiative is also providing them with career development opportunities established through partnerships with Fortune 100 companies. Eligible students receive paid internship opportunities during their college careers to prepare them for post-graduate life. We’re betting on them that given the right investment, these students will go out and do well.”

Additionally, with the help of tech partners including Cisco and AVC Technologies, the Student Freedom Initiative is visiting HBCU campuses throughout the 2021-22 academic year to provide free technology infrastructure upgrades. SFI and its partners will work directly with HBCUs to identify gaps between their existing infrastructure and the requirements identified by the Department of Education Federal Student Aid (FSA) program and install the necessary solutions to address these gaps and become cybersecure.

To date, over 22 HBCUs have signed agreements to achieve campus cyber security through infrastructure upgrades, with additional schools signing up daily.

Together with Cisco’s contribution of $150 million, the Student Freedom Initiative has received over $250 million in pledges, including a generous contribution from the Walmart Foundation as part of its first round of grants for The Center for Racial Equity, and support from the United Negro College Fund. In addition, the program has been acknowledged and supported by the Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice Subcommittee on Education.

About Student Freedom Initiative

The Student Freedom Initiative (SFI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring freedom in professional and life choices for junior and senior students pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees. Initially focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), SFI is a student-centered, evidence-based, and holistic initiative featuring four transformative components: (1) an income contingent alternative to fixed payment obligations used to finance college, (2) immersive work experiences through paid internships (3) executive mentoring, tutoring, and other student services and (4) mission-critical technology infrastructure upgrades at participating HBCUs. SFI collaborates with community-based organizations, businesses and governmental entities through public-private partnerships to make sustainable, systemic changes to support the entire HBCU ecosystem.

To learn more, visit

For more information, contact Sakita Holley at

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Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ta-Nehisi Coates to Launch Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard University

Hannah-Jones and Coates add to the list of media heavy hitters who have recently joined the faculty at Howard.



Photo courtesy of Ashni; @ash_photos via unsplash

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the author of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, known best for his book “Between the World and Me,” are launching a Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard University, the pair announced Tuesday.

The center will focus on training the next generation of Black journalists to develop “the investigative skills and historical and analytical expertise needed to cover the crisis our democracy is facing,” according to a press release the from university.

“We are at a critical juncture in our democracy, and yet our press does not reflect the nation it serves and too often struggles to grasp the danger for our country as we see growing attacks on free speech and the fundamental right to vote,” Hannah-Jones said in the release. “In the storied tradition of the Black press, the Center for Journalism and Democracy will help produce journalists capable of accurately and urgently covering the challenges of our democracy with a clarity, skepticism, rigor and historical dexterity that is too often missing from today’s journalism.”

The center is supported by nearly $20 million in grants from two philanthropic foundations and an anonymous donor. Hannah-Jones’ decision to join the faculty at Howard, an HBCU, instead of UNC-Chapel Hill, where the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was offered a non-tenured position, was praised online. Hannah-Jones will serve as Howard’s newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism. Coates, once a student at Howard University (though he didn’t graduate), will be on the faculty of the College Arts of Sciences.

Hannah-Jones has authored award-winning stories on topics such as school segregation. But the 1619 Project, in which she sought to retell the role of slavery in the development of the United States, drew outrage from conservatives and former President Donald Trump. Bills were introduced to ban the use of the texts in school, and it sparked the ongoing debate around critical race theory.

Coates has also written seminal texts on race in America. His 2014 cover story in Atlantic magazine, “The Case for Reparations,” relaunched the conversation around reparations into the mainstream. More recently, Coates has made his stamp on culture as author on a series of recent Black Panther comic books.

Hannah-Jones and Coates add to the list of media heavy hitters who have recently joined the faculty at Howard.

Actress Phylicia Rashad, who also attended Howard, joined the school’s faculty as dean of the re-launched College of Fine Arts (now named for the late actor Chadwick Boseman, also a Howard alum) earlier this year.

Rashad drew criticism last month after celebrating Bill Cosby’s release from prison on Twitter, writing that “a terrible wrong is being righted- a miscarriage of justice is corrected!” The university put out a statement saying that Rashad’s views did not represent those of the university and that she would be required to take a sensitivity course on sexual assault. That decision also proved controversial online.

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Bay Area

Bay Area’s Black Fraternities and Sororities Award $180,000 in Scholarships

Graduating seniors from all over the Bay Area as well as continuing college students were recognized for their academic achievements by the member organizations.



Photo courtesy of NPHC facebook

On June 6, the San Francisco Bay Area National Pan Hellenic Council held its annual scholarship reception virtually where over 100 students were awarded a total of $180,000 in scholarships.

Chaired by Dr. Joseph Marshall, the SF Bay NPHC is comprised of 25 chapters of the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities – Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity.

Graduating seniors from all over the Bay Area as well as continuing college students were recognized for their academic achievements by the member organizations.

Recipients will be attending a wide variety of schools including HBCUs, prestigious colleges and local institutions like Howard University, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and Cal State East Bay.

In addition to the scholarships awarded by the individual chapters, the council awarded the Mrs. Bethola Harper Scholarships and the two SF Bay NPHC book scholarships.

Brigitte Cook is the vice president of the NPHC.

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