Hampton University has something to prove in the CAA

HAMPTON, VA – Hampton University is a place where tradition is inescapable. From Emancipation Oak to the bronze statue in the middle of the campus of alumnus Booker T. Washington, the HBCU based in the city where the first enslaved Africans landed in America is surrounded by monuments of an enduring history of their home At the seaside.

The winds of change, however, are blowing – and not just the breeze from nearby Buckroe Beach.

Hampton University enters a new school year with a new leader for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War as Dr. William R. Harvey hands over the helm of the pirate ship to Darrell K. Williams. Meanwhile, the venerable Armstrong Stadium is undergoing a facelift with the addition of a new row of seats at the east end of the facility which is currently in its 11th decade of use.

Emancipation Oak on the campus of Hampton University.

Then there is the football program. It also has a proud history, minus a 50-year gap between CIAA championships in the middle of the last century. Currently, however, Hampton football is in a familiar place – having to prove itself in a new conference. After leaving the Deep South with just two seasons as a conference member, coaches at his new conference — the Colonial Athletic Association — had expected Hampton to finish 13th out of 13 programs. In other words, good last.

Head coach Robert Prunty tried to put things into perspective at CAA Media Day. He realizes that Hampton hasn’t had a winning season since 2017 and is entering one of the most beloved FCS conferences in the country.

“But also to have this 18 month layoff, no virtual football to go to school to win to have our players come here and the coaching staff to do a great job of bringing these guys together and getting them ready to play. this season… That says a lot about the coaching staff and the players and the type of people we have around the programme.

Hampton finished 5-6 last season, beating a North Carolina A&T team that is set to win the Big South Conference before joining HU in the CAA in 2020. He enters the 2022 season poll ranked just outside from the HBCU Gameday Staff FCS survey.

Hampton University head coach Robert Prunty is looking to get the program back on the path to winning in the CAA.

Hampton continues to hold down HBCU rivals

Hampton will bring old friends on his sail to CAA, just as he did in the Deep South. It will face former CIAA and MEAC rivals Howard and Norfolk State, as well as its former sister school Tuskegee University.

The second student in red shirt Stanley Garner can’t wait to start the football season. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native joined Hampton last season after starting his career at Kentucky. He says he’s looking forward to the season opener when Hampton takes on archival Howard University at updated Armstrong Stadium.

“Were excited. It’s a rivalry game. It’s a traditional game,” Garner said. “Who’s the real HU? And everyone knows who the real HU is. But we respect Howard a lot, they have good competitors there, so we respect them a lot.

Respect is one thing the Pirates are going to have to earn in the CAA. But he has several athletes that teams will need to prepare for, especially on the attacking side. Running back Elijah Burris is the reigning Big South Rookie of the Year, while wide Jadakis Bonds already holds an abundance of Hampton records heading into his senior season. Both players were recently added to the Black College Football Hall of Fame’s Player of the Year Watch List.

But Bonds knows his team is starting from scratch in CAA, and that’s fine with him.

“We don’t really think about it,” Bonds said of Hampton’s low ranking in the pre-season predictions. Us being in a new conference, it’s going to be kind of a doubt, us being an HBCU, coming from where we come from. So honestly we just can’t wait to play football.

Hampton University has something to prove in the CAA

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