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"Ain't No Party" Like an HBCU Football Classic (4725 hits)

Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2005
By: Jane Foote, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com

Are you ready for some football?

Or are you ready for body bumping cheerleaders, ribs at the tailgate party and an eye-popping halftime show exploding with funk? If you are, you’re ready for a Classic.

Classic football is more than just a football game. It’s rich historical rivalries among Historically Black Colleges and Universities, wrapped in a weekend of spectacle: battles of the bands, step shows, celebrities, even golf outings, job fairs and comedy shows. Sequin studded outfits, gold and silver lame, feathers, and tight knits are not only draped around the energetic half-time performers, but can be seen on spectators promenading all weekend.

Emotions run high between football rivalries, such as Southern University and Grambling State, Alabama State and Alabama A&M, and Alcorn and Jackson State. Stadiums rock with the driving percussions of the colorful high-stepping, high-energy bands. Cheerleaders and dancers flashing Spandex and flesh, take center stage, grooving, grinding and shaking their abundant, uh, pom poms.

Some of the most famous matchups, such as the Bayou Classic, are decades old. But because hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars are made, both by the colleges, the host cities and promoters, newer ones abound, such as the second annual Detroit football Classic at the new Ford Field in Detroit.

One of the most famous of all Classics is the 31-year-old Bayou Classic, which not only is nationally televised but has attracted celebrities such as former Miss America Erika Harold and actor Nick Cannon, who portrayed a drummer in a fictitious HBCU band in the movie “Drumline”. Remember the gyrations and glitz, the fancy stepping of the “Drumline” bands, and the furious competition? It’s all based on real life.

At the Bayou, busloads of fans and alumni will descend on New Orleans at Thanksgiving time, bragging and strutting with the “Human Jukebox” of Southern University and the “Marching Tigers” of Grambling State in the annual “Battle of the Bands”. Fraternities and sororities put on slick step shows. And there’s even a job fair.

At another classic last year, the two rival schools were each guaranteed $375,000 and fans were treated to a Neville Brothers concert, a vendor marketplace selling jewelry, African art and clothes and a Greek step show. There was also a traditional Battle of the Bands. And don’t show up in last year’s rags. The weekend is a continual fashion show of the latest and outrageous styles that black folks can squeeze into.

Represent! Represent! Shout out to your school, line brothers and sisters and alumnae!

The biggest classics, ranked by football attendance, include the Magic City Classic in Birmingham, AL, showcasing Alabama A&M against Alabama State University. This, the fourth largest Classic, has “lots of black folk and lots of Black history,” according to Black America Travel.

The Bayou Classic is third, which is “just like during Mardi Gras, if you are looking to drink,” the travel company said. Second is the Atlantic Classic between Florida A&M and Tennessee State University. “This has become Atlanta’s premiere urban event since the loss of Freaknic in the 90s”

And the top drawing Classic with attendance at more than 73,000 in a game pitting Bethune-Cookman College against Florida A&M is the Florida Classic in Orlando. It was described as having “non-stop activities for all ages, from the numerous theme parks to the overabundance of shopping malls, to the multitude of nightclubs.”

These classics are more than just a game. So pack the Pepto Bismol and leave the Spandex at home.
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Saturday, September 3rd 2005 at 7:37PM
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