by Zanha Armstrong, Staff Writer
28 years ago, the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC), the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) National Quiz Championship, was established to showcase the academic excellence of HBCU students. Morgan State University’s very own HCASC team goes back to nationals this weekend in hope of bringing home the trophy.
“When I saw ‘Morgan’ I just couldn’t hold my emotion,” said Oluwakayode A. Jasanya, a sophomore electrical and computer engineering major. “I knew we did good, everyone did awesome in the qualifying tournament but just seeing it will make you proud of it.”
MSU has had the honor of winning two back to back championship titles, in 2012 and 2013. The team will be traveling to California along with 47 other teams to be quizzed on topics ranging from biblical facts, politics, food, history and more.
Students who compete are expected to know a little about everything.
“We practice three times a week. I study sports, pop culture, and politics,” said Kenold E. Pierre, a sophomore political science major from Prince George’s County. “So, like right now I’m looking at the NBA draft coming up this year, looking up NBA prospects. Looking at hot topics on there and see what’s trending. I also visit this website called the bleacher report and they have all sports. And I tune in to CNN.”
For most of the members on the team, joining this group has provided a getaway space from academics.
“It takes you away from everything on campus, it’s different. And I like the competitiveness aspect of it, because it is a competition and it’s just as competitive and brutal as any sport,” said team captain and senior actuarial science major, Turayo Tijani.
“So far I’ve enjoyed being on the Honda team its really fun coming here and getting away from like everything I do on campus, work, student government. Having fun hanging out with my teammates,” said Pierre.
Honda has shown a commitment to HBCUs by also sponsoring the annual Honda Battle of The Bands, which is a competition featuring only HBCU bands.
Since Morgan State began competing in the HCASC in 1989, they have won a cumulative of $203,000 in grants.
“Yeah we’re nerds. I’m not gonna lie about it,” said Tijani. “You have nerds that know football facts, you have nerds that can run down a category when it comes to words, you have nerds who know science, you have all kinds of nerds. So, yeah, we’re nerds. We own it and we’ll go to California for free and go to Disneyland and enjoy it. But we’ll own that.”
Dr. Brett Berliner, associate professor and third-year coach, had no doubt that they would qualify for finals, but makes it clear that winning isn’t the main goal for him.
“My goal for the students is really to have fun, make friends with each other, bond and have something that sort of grounds them so that they can succeed in their academic work and have a hobby and advocation that helps them do their academic work,” said Berliner. “The students are really good students and I want them to own this. I don’t wanna drive this, I want them to drive themselves.”
Whether the trophy is won or not, the team has built a bond that is forever and that is something that cannot be competed for.
“We’ve become like family. We’ve gone through so much together,” said Afua A. Adusei, a junior biology major. “We’ve had to learn so many things together, things we didn’t think we would need to learn and we needed to. Being able to win a competition and even being in a competition, it’s much more amazing than you think.”
Florida A&M University will be defending its title at the National Championship Tournament April 8-12, 2017. The tournament is to be held in Los Angeles and part of the event will be hosted at Honda headquarters.
Morgan State University will be streaming the tournament live Monday, April 10 at 12 p.m. in the University Student Center in room 316.