Campus culture

People Sports

February 1, 2023

North Carolina-based HBCU Gameday fills a void in athletics coverage.

by Vanessa Infanzon

In 2015, Charlotte filmmaker Wali Pitt stumbled upon HBCU Gameday, a website covering sports at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, while researching an impressive running back at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. By 2016, Pitt joined the HBCU Gameday team, bringing his cinematography and website knowledge to the company.

Steven Gaither, a North Carolina native and graduate of Winston-Salem State University, launched HBCU Gameday in 2012 to provide comprehensive sports reporting for the more than 100 HBCUs in the United States. Before that, fans relied on niche publications and Black newspapers for updates that were typically unavailable digitally. 

As more people wanted to consume content online, Gaither saw his chance to bridge the gap in HBCU sports coverage. He bought the website domain, covered the games he could travel to, and wrote about what was going on nationally. Tolly Carr joined HBCU Gameday in 2014 as general manager, adding his expertise in broadcasting and video to the team.

Charlotte filmmaker Wali Pitt takes pictures on the field for HBCU Gameday.
Charlotte filmmaker Wali Pitt. Photograph by Steven J. Gaither

“Steven was creating some really engaging content in the blog and social-media spaces, and we knew the next step was creating an enterprise website that could one day stand side by side with the ESPNs and Bleacher Reports,” Pitt says. “We also started to combine Steve’s content with news and updates directly from the schools’ athletic departments to create a website where you could get both accurate up-to-date information as well as more nuanced reporting.”

This month, they’re gearing up for the next big event: The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament in Baltimore, Md., is Feb. 21-25. CIAA is headquartered in Charlotte and until 2020, hosted the annual event in the Queen City. This year, the event features 12 schools, including Johnson C. Smith University and several other North Carolina HBCUs. 

“All of our core members have deep roots within the conference and the tournament itself,” Pitt says. “Plus, it’s sort of like a family reunion for us. It’s one of the few times we (Carr, Gaither and Pitt), get to work side by side instead of being spread out over the map covering games. The CIAA tournament is a pillar of HBCU sports, and it’s something that’s important for us to shine our light on.”

Typically, the team works full time on HBCU Gameday from their respective cities: Gaither in Troutman, N.C., where he grew up; Carr in Atlanta, Ga.; and Pitt in Charlotte. Each manages a specific area of the business and depends on freelance videographers in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas. “We try to surround ourselves with other people who are not just dedicated to their craft but using their craft to uplift HBCU sports and programs, as a whole,” Pitt says.

Photograph Courtesy HBCU Gameday

Carr, Gaither and Pitt have connected fans to something they affectionately call the HBCU Universe. “There was no ‘HBCU Universe’ before HBCU Gameday came around,” Pitt says. “Up until 2015, HBCU Gameday was one of the few places you could find it all, and it was current.”

The HBCU Gameday website features roughly 150 articles a month about athletes and the schools’ athletic programs. Each story includes a video, which can also be viewed on HBCU Gameday’s YouTube Channel. Stories cover topics ranging from campus culture, bands, cheerleaders and game-day atmosphere. 

HBCU Gameday’s coverage extends beyond sports. The platform produces three shows on aspireTV. Jahliel Thurman, a graduate of Virginia State University, hosts “HBCU 101,” interviewing HBCU alumni, college presidents and celebrities about how they reached their level of success. Eight episodes of “HBCU 101” are released each spring and fall. 

Pitt produces and Carr hosts “Fast Break” during college basketball season from January through March, and “No Huddle” during football season. Pitt uses his background in cinematography to bring in-depth stories to fans in documentary-style films. 

“It’s a combination of highlights, post-game interviews and a little bit more of a deeper dive into the culture,” Pitt says. “We want our platform to feel like all of the events that happen on a game day. We want you to think you can smell the grill when you come to our site.”  SP

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