For Alabama A&M, Saturday’s SWAC Championship Game is an opportunity to prove that the team is the best in HBCU football.
For much of the season, the Bulldogs have topped the BOXTOROW Media and Coaches polls, despite only playing three games. Their opponent, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, is currently in second place in both polls.
All three of the team’s wins (not including Alcorn State’s forfeit) came on the road. It is the first time since the team moved up to Division I that they’ve played a season without a home game.
Head coach Connell Maynor said it was disappointing that they didn’t get to host a game at Louis Crews Stadium, but noted the lack of home-field advantage hasn’t impacted them.
“We’ve been focused, we’ve been playing good on the road, and I said it yesterday, I like road games, I can get my team focused better on road games,” Maynor said. “Just so much stuff goes on at home games that you can’t control that you can control on the road. So I think on road games, I think the road team always has the advantage because their teams are more focused.”
In Saturday’s matchup with Arkansas Pine-Bluff, both teams will be on the road. Though the Bulldogs believed they might be in a position to host the game, the SWAC announced that it was moving the championship to a neutral site at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss.
“You can only control what you can control,” Maynor said of the decision. “Like I said, I like to travel. I like to get my guys on the road.”
For Maynor, the little things -- such as the location of a game -- don’t really seem to matter much. What it really comes down to is being focused and having fun.
“The team that is focused on playing football is the team that’s going to win that game, no matter what the situation is,” he said.
In Jackson, the Bulldogs will play in a title game for the first time since 2011.
Maynor is no stranger to winning. He likes to tell his guys that he has “15 rings,” which he claims is something he uses to motivate them.
“I had to sacrifice, bold sweat and tears to get these 15 rings, and so I want those guys to understand that. I want you to be like me, I want you to be able to tell people you’ve got rings. And don’t apologize for it,” he said. “I’m trying to get you some rings so you do what you have to do then you can tell people you’ve got rings.”
Maynor also said Wednesday that he hopes to win multiple rings with the Bulldogs, brushing off rumors he might leave for another job as he announced that he and the school were in the process of finalizing a “four or five” year extension.
Maynor said he expected the deal to be finalized on Wednesday, but no official announcement has been made as of Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs will have their sights set on their first title in 15 years when they kick off on Saturday at 2 p.m.