There is no doubt that HBCU football classics are one of the most popular and exciting events in all of black college sports. These games are annual celebrations that bring together like-minded alumni and fans from the old school to the new school. The match-ups typically feature fierce long time rivals that leave competitive fans eager to claim bragging rights. If you have ever had the privilege to attend a Classic you know it more than just a game – It’s a three-day affair. Similar to HBCU Homecomings, the Classic events typically include a parade, step-show, battle of the bands, college fair, comedy show, community outreach, alumni ball or gala, and of course the legendary tailgate party.
Unlike other bowl games, HBCU football classics are unique in that the biggest draw to the game is the halftime show. This has never been more apparent than in this year’s black college football season. Disruptions of two of the top Classics halftime show formats appear to be directly related to decreases in overall attendance numbers compared to the 2011 HBCU Classics. Below is a list of the top 5 HBCU football classic games for 2012.
1. Magic City Classic
State Farm Magic City Classic Presented by Coca-Cola, is the reigning number one HBCU football classic, and is the largest in the country. Maintaining its position, the Classic saw a slight decrease from the 66,473 fans in attendance in 2011. The 71st edition of Magic City Classic was played on October 27, 2012. The game featured the annual battle of in-state rivals Alabama State University Hornets (ASU) vs. Alabama A&M University (AAMU) Bulldogs at the famed Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The Hornets took a 31-13 victory over the Bulldogs earning their second Classic win in three years. The classic is a long time tradition dating back to 1924 with a record of 35-32-3, AAMU leading the series.
2. Bayou Classic
The 39th annual State Farm Bayou Classic moves up two positions, making it the second largest HBCU Classic in the country. This event was held on November 24, 2012 in the newly renovated Mercedes-Benz Super Dome in New Orleans, LA. This historic match-up between rivals Grambling State University Tigers (GSU) and Southern University Jaguars (SU) is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for alumni, families and fans. This year the Jaguars rallied to a 38-33 victory over the Tigers. This Classic has been around since 1974. GSU leads the series with a 20-19 record.
3. Southern Heritage Classic
The Southern Heritage Classic Presented by FedEx surges up to the nation’s third largest HBCU classic, with the Atlanta and Florida Classic’s losses in attendance in 2012. The 23rd Annual Southern Heritage Classic was held on September 8, 2012. This gridiron battle between Jackson State University Tigers (JSU) and Tennessee State University Tigers (TSU) is one of the most storied rivalries in black college football. The game is played in the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis has been the classic’s home since 1990 and deeply in embodies in the city’s cultural heritage. This year TSU snapped JSU’s 2 game winning streak with a 38 -12 victory over JSU. TSU holds the series edge 25-20-2.
4. Atlanta Football Classic
The Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic dropped one position to the 4th largest HBCU Classic in the country from the previous year. On September 29, 2012 The Southern University Jaguars (SU) earned a hard fought victory over the Florida A&M University Rattlers (FAMU) with a 21-14 victory in the Atlanta Superdome in Georgia. Some speculate that the attendance was lower due to the suspension of marching 100, which typically brings a competitive halftime show. In a classic gesture during the halftime show, the Southern band spelled out “FAMU” in a touching tribute to Florida A&M. The game has been an annual tradition in Atlanta since 1989 and the Atlanta Classic Fans look forward to seeing the FAMU band back on the field next year.
5. Florida Classic
The Florida Blue Florida Classic dramatically drops two positions from 60,218 in attendance in 2011 to round out as the nation’s fifth largest HBCU Classic. This year’s 33rd competition occurred on November 17th, 2012, and was the lowest attendance of the game since being relocated from Tampa to the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando in 1997. Similar to the Atlanta Classic, usually competitive halftime show that lacked the presence of Florida A&M’s Marching 100 band seems to have effected the game attendance. In this year’s match-up the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats (B-CU) held off the Florida A&M University Rattlers’ (FAMU) comeback with a 21-16 victory late in the fourth quarter. BC-U and FAMU have battled for in-state bragging rights since 1978. FAMU leads the series 21-11.
Sources: Magic City Classic, Florida Classic, Atlanta Football Classic, Southern Heritage Classic, Facebook, The Times-Picayune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Florida Citrus Sports, The Montgomery Adviser, and Alabama Live.