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HBCU Rankings: Top 5 Football Classics by Attendance 2013

The 2013 black college football season has been nothing short of crazy both on and off the field. The unexpected firing of Grambling’s legendary head coach Doug Williams, which lead to a player boycott of the Grambling state – Jackson State football game. That protest lead to Grambling forfeiting of Jackson State’s homecoming game.

At a pre-game banquet for the 2013 CIAA football championship game, the Winston-Salem State quarterback was attacked by a Virginia State football player. The attack lead to the cancelation of the football game. Both incidents proved to be unprecedented in college football.

But there were some bright spots in black college football. Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina State, and Tennessee State capped off successful football seasons by earing berths in the NCAA Division I FCS championship playoffs. This was the first time three HBCU’s had been selected for the postseason since 1999. Tuskegee University had it’s first ever Division II playoff game, and Winston-Salem State advanced to the second round of the Division II playoffs.

The HBCU Classics

No black college football season is complete with out including the annual HBCU football classics. The classics bring together alumni, fans and supports from across the nation for the biggest and the best tailgating, rivalries, and entertainment. The games are some of the best black college sporting events, and the HBCU rankings for the classics demonstrate the power of HBCU dollar in local economies. Below is a list of the top 5 HBCU football classic games for 2013. To compare the results from last year’s HBCU rankings, visit our 2012 Top HBCU classics article.

5. Atlanta Football Classic: 35,412 Fans

A drum major from South Carolina State University's Marching 101 leads the horn section in high stepping formation.

Photo courtesy of the 2013 Atlanta Football Classic.

The Atlanta Football Classic has continued to decline in attendance, and has dropped a position for the second year in a row – down to number five. After being featured for most of the classic’s 24 years, Florida A&M University was not in the mix. This Atlanta Classic had a new match-up this year.

The classic featured North Carolina A&T Aggies (NCAT) hosting the South Carolina State Bulldogs (SCSU) in October 5th game. The game was close, but South Carolina State was able to maintain the lead in the second half of the game with their special teams. Their defense was able to hold off North Carolina A&T’s comeback attempt with a game saving tackle in the last two minutes of the game. The Bulldogs snapped the Aggies seven game-winning streak to with a 29-24 victory in the Atlanta Superdome in Georgia. NCAT’s overall regular season record is 7-4-0 and SCSU’s record is 9-3-0.


4. Southern Heritage Classic: 42,400 Fans

The Tennessee State University Tigers Defense lines up against Jackson State University on the gridiron during the 2011 Southern Heritage Football Classic before the ball is snapped.

Photo Courtesy of the Southern Heritage Football Classic.

The Southern Heritage Classic drops one position to the number four spot, but still saw a slight increase in attendance. This classic match-up between long-time rivals Tennessee State University Tigers (TSU) and Jackson State University Tigers (JSU) takes place annually at the Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee.

The 24th edition of the classic was held on September 14th. In this year’s game TSU capitalized on several JSU turnovers, including four interceptions, and one for a 50 yard return for in a 26-16 victory for Tennessee State University. TSU has claimed 10 victories in 12 years of this match-up. TSU’s overall regular season record is 9-3-0 and JSU’s record is 8-3-0.


3. Florida Classic: 45,321 Fans

The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats Marching Band take the field to perform at the opening of the 2012 Florida Classic prior to kickoff.

Photo courtesy of the 2013 Florida Classic.

The Florida Classic came up two positions this year with larger attendance numbers. This was due in part to Florida Classic fans welcoming back FAMU’s Marching 100 band after being suspended the previous year. The band has a leaner look (under 150 musicians) and a more somber sound. The return to the “good old days” has been slow for the Marching 100. Although, many fans returned to the classic, the attendance still did not rise to the level of the 2011 attendance record of over 60,000 fans.

This year’s game occurred on November 23rd, between long time In-state rivals Florida A&M University Rattlers’ (FAMU) and Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats (B-CU). The Wildcats were heavily favored to win the game coming in with a 6-1 conference record. The Rattlers went on the attack early, but BC-U prevailed with 4 rushing touchdowns that eventually lead to a 29-10 victory. The win secured a FCS playoff berth. FAMU ended the season with a 3-9-0 record. Bethune ended with a 10-2-0 record.


2. Bayou Classic: 47,385 Fans

The Grambling State University Band wait on the sidelines to take the field as Southern University's Band performs in formation during the 2013 halftime show.

Photo courtesy of the 2013 Bayou Classic.

The Bayou Classic holds it’s position as the second largest HBCU Classic in the country. Despite distractions from Grambling’s troubled season, the game saw a slight increase in attendance over last year. Although, these numbers don’t come close to the attendance numbers prior to Hurricane Katrina. In the years 2000-04, the Bayou Classic was had over 70,000 in attendance. This year’s event was held on November 30th at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans, LA, and is an annual Thanksgiving weekend tradition.

In the 40th edition of the game, long time rivals Southern University Jaguars (SU) battled the Grambling State University Tigers (GSU). Big named entertainers such as Kevin Hart, Will Packer and Doug E. Fresh were involved in making the event a success. The Jaguars came into the game highly favored with a 6-2 conference record. The Tigers struggled this season coming in with a 1-8 conference record. SU went on the offensive early with four touchdowns in the first half of the game. The G-men were not able to mount a come back in the second half, and Southern coasted to a 40-17 win over Grambling. SU’s overall regular season record is 7-4-0 and GSU ended the season with a 1-11-0 record.


1. Magic City Classic: 63,113 Fans

An aerial shot of the famed Legion Field in Birmingham, AL during the halftime show. Alabama A&M University's Band is performing on the field in front of a packed stadium.

Photo courtesy of the Magic City Classic.

The Magic City Classic is once again is in the number one position and is clearly the most attended HBCU classic in the nation. Not only did they maintain their spot, but they actually saw an increase in attendance over last year’s stats; creating a wider distance between other HBCU classics. With rapper/entertainer Ice Cube as the ambassador, this year’s game had the largest attendance since 2008, but fell shy of the 70,000 sellout mark. All thought the Classic has never reach this milestone, organizers are hopeful about reaching it. In addition, the game had more corporate sponsors than ever. The teams are projected to earn roughly $500,000 each.

The 72nd edition of Magic City Classic was played on October 26th and the game featured the historic match-up between rivals Alabama A&M University (AAMU) Bulldogs and the Alabama State University Hornets (ASU) at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The Hornets dominated the game with 14-0 score at halftime that lead to a 31-7 victory over the Bulldogs, earning them a third Classic win in three years. The Bulldogs lead the series, but the Hornets are quickly closing the gap.AAMU’s overall regular season record is 4-8-0 and ASU’s record is 8-4-0.


Sources: Southwestern Athletic Conference, Mid Eastern Athletic Conference, Ohio Valley Conference, Southern Heritage Classic, Orlando Sentinel, The Bayou Classic, Atlanta Football Classic, and the Alabama Media Group.

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Garrick Gibson
Written by Garrick Gibson

Garrick Gibson, an alumnus of Florida A&M University is an HBCU advocate, designer, marathoner and blogger at HBCU Lifestyle. His passion for healthy living and raising college-bound children has led him to co-found HBCU Lifestyle, and inspire students and parents to preserve the HBCU tradition.

6 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    December 11, 2013

    Could you please this to Birmingham,Alabama city council and mayor office . Because the sound system at legion field is horrible where they hold this great event.

    Reply

  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
    January 03, 2014

    Love MyASU

    Reply

  4. Avatar
    January 03, 2014

    It’s a shame how the MCC and SHC are not covered the same way as the BC… imagine if all the big games were covered by ESPN or BET (even though we know they have no interest in sports anymore) or Fox Sports (or a regional carrier)… heck even TVOne or Centric… lol

    Reply

    • Avatar
      January 31, 2014

      The BC controls its own TV deal and works to make sure the game is on live. I’ve seen the SHC on live TV before. The MCC has been on ESPNU (delayed) the last few years.

      Reply

  5. Avatar
    January 10, 2014

    ESPNU carried HBCU football this past year and has already carried a few HBCU basketball games. . .

    Reply

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