As North Carolina football prepares to face the Florida A&M Rattlers in the Football season opens on Saturday, with festivities taking place to highlight historically black colleges and universities. The events — held before the HBCU Celebration Game — are the culmination of efforts between athletic departments, campus organizations, and civic entities at UNC and Florida A&M.
At the center of events is HBCU Heroes, an organization founded by two UNC alumni that seeks to empower HBCU students. The organization will host a careers festival on Friday in the Great Hall with job and internship opportunities across all disciplines.
“Carolina Athletics is thrilled to partner with two great Tar Heels, George Lynch and Tracey Pennywell, to bring the HBCU Heroes job fair to campus,” said UNC Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Steinbacher. “[They] are passionate about their mission to improve the lives and opportunities of HBCU students in many ways.
Lynch, a member of UNC’s 1993 National Men’s Basketball Championship team, served as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons and assistant athletic director at the University of California, Irvine.
Pennywell is self-employed as CEO of Switch Media Inc., a social media marketing agency. She graduated from UNC with a degree in radio, television and film.
The Careers Festival will feature a wide variety of opportunities for students, with speakers from fields including technology, finance, STEM, sports management and more. HBCU presidents from across North Carolina will speak at the event, as well as Vinnie Brown, a rapper-turned-entrepreneur who will talk about his transition into the tech field.
Students have been selected to serve as panel moderators and HBCU sororities and fraternities will be recognized. All UNC and HBCU students are invited to attend the event in person or virtually.
“We don’t want the message to be that ‘It’s just for HBCUs,'” Pennywell said. “It’s meant to be a celebration where everyone comes together and shares it all.”
Along with the festivities leading up to Saturday night’s contest, the game itself will include numerous initiatives to celebrate HBCUs in North Carolina. The Florida A&M Marching Band, better known as the Marching “100”, will travel to Chapel Hill to perform and accompany the Marching Tar Heels throughout the game.
During the game, there will be several recognitions to showcase those who have made significant contributions to UNC as well as Florida A&M and other HBCUs. In addition to highlighting UNC faculty and staff who hold degrees from HBCUs, each team named honorary captains to be recognized during the game.
For UNC, Rod Broadway and Bill Hayes will serve as honorary captains. Broadway and Hayes made significant contributions to NC A&T football as coaches at different times.
Rudy Hubbard will be Florida A&M’s honorary captain. After leading their football program to back-to-back Black College Football National Championships in 1977 and 1978, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year.
All of these festivities are intended to raise the profile of college football in HBCUs, as well as to further integrate HBCU culture and community into daily life.
“Being North Carolina is a public school, it shows how the public school systems are working with HBCUs to bring the HBCU community and the Chapel Hill community together for an event like this,” he said. “That says a lot.”
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