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Black Football Classics are the Pride and Joy of HBCUs

Unlike other events, the Black college football classic is the epicenter where sports, HBCU culture, and Black history converge. Dating back to 1919, the first classic between Howard and Lincoln took place on Thanksgiving Day as a gentlemen’s game  between two rival college teams battling it out on the field for bragging rights. More classics followed.

Yet the Black football classic is bigger than just a game. It can get just as cutthroat when marching bands and dance lines from competing schools face off in the much-anticipated Battle of the Bands. For the many students, alumni, and fans who come out every year from across the country, HBCU football classics have evolved into a cultural phenomenon. Before and after games there are parades, tailgating parties and even line-dancing. These monumental events attract impressive crowds across the nation, with hundreds of thousands of people coming to cheer on their favorite team. 

Over the years, HBCU classics —  from the popular Bayou Classic to the Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic — have changed the football landscape as HBCUs have become important players in collegiate sports. In celebration of these culture-shifting games, we’re spotlighting the top 5 most epic HBCU rivalry games. Let’s go!

Over the years, these classic rivalries have changed the football landscape as HBCUs have become important players in collegiate sports.

5. Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic

The Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic features two of the most prestigious HBCUs and heated rivalries on the football field. The longest running NCAA Division II classic in the nation, the showdown has transformed into a major cultural event and destination for the HBCU community, football devotees, and beyond. A huge attraction in the Southeastern region, the tremendous support the Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic receives and the money it produces for each of the institutions helps fund scholarships for students. It’s been held for over 84 years in Columbus, Georgia, and there have recently been talks of the game moving to Birmingham, Alabama. Stay tuned.

4. Florida Classic

Televised nationally on ESPNU, this annual game between Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M is well-known for brilliantly blending amazing sportsmanship, classic marching band performances and late game-winning touchdowns. The must-see match-up takes place in Orlando, bringing in major revenue to the city as it attracts huge crowds and outside interest every year. Today the Florida Classic stands as the largest Division 1 FCS football game in the Sunshine State.

3. Magic City Classic

Held in Alabama, the Magic City Classic claims the title of the largest HBCU football game in the country. This is no hyperbole. The Magic City Classic attracts upwards of 200,000 fans every year who come to see the Alabama A&M University Bulldogs face off against the Alabama State University Hornets. And the football rivalry can get downright intense. And why not? Beyond the Magic City Classic, there’s a 2-hour parade, alumni gatherings, and the legendary Battle of the Bands between ASU’s Mighty Marching Hornets and AAMU’s Maroon and White Marching Band for all the bragging rights. Buckle up, y’all.

2. Turkey Day Classic

Doubling as Alabama State University’s homecoming, the Turkey Day Classic is the oldest college football rivalry in the country. Originally between the ASU Hornets and Tuskegee University Golden Tigers, it’s now held every Thanksgiving weekend (hence the name) with Alabama State going head-to-head against a divisional rival. Leading up to the big game on Thanksgiving, there are several fun-filled events, including a parade, alumni brunches, meet-ups, and endless parties.

1. Bayou Classic

The BIG one. The most well-known Black college football classic of them all, The Bayou Classic features in-state rivals, the Grambling State University Tigers and Southern University Jaguars. Since its inception in 1931, this celebrated event has gained prominence in the sports world, with NBC broadcasting the game in the U.S. from 1991 to 2014. Much of the credit of the Bayou Classic’s mammoth success should go to late Eddie Robinson, arguably the greatest coach in FCS history who has the third most victories in college football. Today the event attracts hundreds of thousands of fans every year who descend on New Orleans, Louisiana to take part in all the action to see who will take home the game winning trophy. It’s a rivalry that is now woven into the fabric of Americana.

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