Ole Miss Should Repay Tennessee State's Kind Deed

Tennessee State did Ole Miss a favor by allowing the Rebels to use their basketball arena for practice. Now, Ole Miss can return the favor on the gridirion.

Ole Miss used Tennessee State's basketball arena to practice during the SEC Tournament in Nashville
Source: Ole Miss Men's Basketball Twitter (@olemissMBB)

The College football season is in full swing. Writers will make anything into a story during this dull period. This article is no different. In a gesture of goodwill, Tennessee State let Ole Miss practice at their basketball arena during the SEC Tournament in Nashville this week.
While a seemingly small act, Tennessee State can benefit significantly from this friendly deed. Tennessee State has every right to request a future road game against Ole Miss.

A road game against Ole Miss provides a substantial financial opportunity for Tennessee State. Ole Miss paid Central Arkansas $475,000 for a 2022 game and Mercer $500,000 for their 2023 visit to Oxford. This figure stands in the middle of the pack of FBS payouts to FCS opponents.
Money like this can continue to boost the Tigers' facilities and even go towards finally renovating the outdated Hale Stadium. Hale Stadium upgrades are crucial to give the Tigers the home-field advantage they have long lacked at the home of the Tennessee Titans, Nissan Stadium.

Tennessee State has much to offer Ole Miss. The Tigers' rich tradition and history of producing NFL stars should draw more fans to an FCS game than other schools in the subdivision would. Tennessee State also received crucial exposure from their NBC appearance against Notre Dame. The college football world holds the Tigers in such high regard that Tennessee State became the first school to play Notre Dame since Division I split into two subdivisions in 1978.

Of course, Tennessee State would also bring a thrilling band to Oxford, a rare treat for Ole Miss fans, given the Rebels have never played an HBCU. HBCU bands are the first thing many casual football fans think of when they think of Black College Football. The "Aristocrat of Bands" alone could draw local fans to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Additionally, Tennessee State's campus is less than four hours from Ole Miss campus, much closer than recent Ole Miss FCS opponents Mercer and Southern Illinois. Tennessee State should bring a more sizable traveling contingent than Ole Miss' past FCS opponents. Legendary Tennessee Titan Eddie George being the Tigers' head coach also increases the Tigers' local appeal.

More importantly, a home game against an HBCU is long overdue for the Ole Miss program. With around 38% of Mississippi's population being African American and two SWAC schools residing in the Magnolia State, it is appalling for the state's flagship school to have never played an HBCU on the gridiron. SEC counterpart LSU recently played Southern and Grambling for the first time. It is becoming harder to defend Ole Miss' avoidance of HBCUs. A game against Tennessee State is necessary progress for an institution still troubled by past events such as 1962's James Meredith incident.

Surprisingly, college football scheduling agreements centered around other sports are nothing new. In 1997, Cincinnati promised to play Boise State the following men's basketball season if given a berth to the Humanitarian Bowl. UMass' men's basketball program received home games against Georgia and South Carolina in exchange for football road games.

No kind deed goes unpaid. Tennessee State may not have allowed Ole Miss to use their basketball arena with the intent of getting something in return. However, the Tigers now have significant bargaining power. Both parties benefit from the game. It's only right for Ole Miss to repay Tennessee State with a game.