ESPN’s First Take has decided to give back to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by doing virtual shows from the campuses of different schools every Wednesday in February, which is Black History Month. New York Sports Day spoke exclusively with First Take producer James Dunn about the genesis of the HBCU shows, how the schools were selected, and much more.
Dunn discussed the origin of the idea of these HBCU shows. “In 2019, we did a remote from Delaware State University,” Dunn told New York Sports Day. “(First Take was) there for the HBCU career fair. We had Stephen A. Smith’s alma mater, Winston Salem State University and Delaware State University provide their bands.”
As Black History Month 2021 approached, Dunn initiated a conversation. “We looked at ways to celebrate Black History Month and in effort to do that, in our meeting myself and Antoine Lewis, who’s our coordinator producer, we talked about, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to not only recognize some of the great people and events of Black History Month, but higher education and what better way to do that?’ With that conversation, combined with the 2019 show, the idea of virtual visits to four HBCUs was born.
First Take visited Stephen A’s alma mater in week one, will visit Howard University in week two, Morehouse College in week three and finally Jackson State University in week four. Dunn discussed how the four schools were selected.
“Essentially we wanted to kind of get a broad cross section of just different people, different schools from different regions,” Dunn informed us. “The initial idea was to start in the South and work our way up as if we were headed back toward Delaware.” But COVID-19 prevented those aspirations.
“Obviously, Winston-Salem State, we reached out to them as obviously being Stephen A’s alma mater and they were 100% on line and they would love to kick this off. It would be great. So then it was let’s look at some of the other notable HBCUs. We’ve had guests from Howard University before, some of their famous alums. They’re known for very famous alumni, including our current vice-president (Kamala Harris.)
.@stephenasmith got a message from one of his favorite professors from Winston-Salem State University.
He describes how important attending a HBCU was to him. #BlackHistoryAlways pic.twitter.com/yT751EuiCp
— First Take (@FirstTake) February 3, 2021
Two down, two to go. How did First Take select the final two HBCUs? “We’d love to have a representative from the AAU Center,” Dunn said. Morehouse College became the selection. “Obviously with their legacy with people like Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, they have a tremendous legacy,” Dunn acknowledged. “So in Atlanta being what it is, and, you know, a little bit of a little bias from me, because I’m from Atlanta.” So Morehouse College is college three.
“Then we wanted to branch out a little bit West so we went to Jackson State,” Dunn explained. “Obviously we’ve got a Deion Sanders on the show and with Deion being a high profile member of HBCU athletics as a coach now for Jackson State, we thought that would be a really good school to profile as well as get a perspective from someone of his caliber to talk about the importance of HBCUs and him joining the HBCU family. So we thought that was a pretty good cross section.
A great cross section indeed. Tune into First Take Wednesdays for the HBCU shows and Monday thru Friday for the great debates between Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman hosted by Molly Qerim-Rose at 10am Eastern time.