AT&T Nation’s Football Classic to Reinvent Itself
Thank you for joining me as a write HBCU Game Time, powered by BOX TO ROW for JET! As host of the national sports talk radio show “From the Press Box to Press Row,” I cover all sports, with an emphasis on our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The AT&T Nation’s Football Classic wants to be not only one of the elite HBCU football games, but elite HBCU events.
Saturday’s game between Howard and Morehouse – two of the top academic schools in the nation – was the last meeting between the schools in the four-year history of the event. Howard defeated Morehouse 35-17 and won all four games in the series.
The announced attendance at the game was 13,178–the lowest ever. Part of the low figures could have been due to inclement weather, but Events DC, the group that organizes the game, announced at the beginning of August that this would be the last meeting between the schools.
“After four years, we think it’s time to refresh this game, and look for a matchup that will be compelling to our residents, visitors and football fans everywhere,” said Erik Moses, senior vice president of Sports & Entertainment for Events DC. “We were honored to bring this rivalry back to the football field since these teams had not played each other in football in almost 15 years.
“We will be getting people to weigh in on through our Web site and tell us who they’d like to see play,” he continued.
Moses mentioned Tennessee State, Jackson State, Florida A&M, Hampton and North Carolina Central as possible teams. Jackson State along with Southern arguably has the best traveling fan base. Tennessee State and Florida A&M fans also travel well. The annual Atlanta Football Classic, which involved Howard and Morehouse, was one of the most well attended HBCU football games.
Howard, located in Washington, DC, is likely going to continue to play in the game, but that is not a guarantee.
“When we look to freshen the game, we are going to look at the best matchup that makes the most sense,” said Moses. “Howard is quite involved in several classics and there’s a tipping point as to how many games schools can play in and we want to be sensitive to that and to make sure the game doesn’t get old for Howard.”
The NFC has a real chance to prosper in Washington. Washington – once known as Chocolate City – is a destination city with a lot of culture and great nightlife. The game is played at a professional football venue, RFK Stadium, the former home of the Washington Redskins.
This year’s events included a presidential symposium and events with performances by national recording artists Miguel, Mack Wilds, Adrian Marcel, Eric Bellinger and Jeremih.
BOXTOROW National Game of the Week
Tuskegee (1-1) vs. Winston-Salem State (1-1)
This is a matchup between the most winningest HBCU football program of all-time, Tuskegee and arguably the top HBCU football program the last four years, Winston-Salem State. Despite its loss to Valdosta State 21-17 Saturday, WSSU is still ranked in the BOXTOROW Top 10 Media Poll. The Rams are only two years removed from falling to Valdosta State in the Division II national championship game. The team will need time to gel after the loss of some key players especially on defense and adapt to Kienus Boulware as the new head coach.
Through two games, the Rams are on par overall numbers-wise in terms of where they were last year when they had the No. 1 defense in Division II. But VSU exposed the Rams in the run game, rolling up 229 yards. Offensively, the two-quarterback system with All-CIAA performer Rudy Johnson and newcomer Phillip Sims has not paid dividends to this point with the two completing a combined 48 percent of their passes.
It would be incumbent upon Tuskegee to take advantage of a porous Rams rushing defense, but the Golden Tigers are only averaging 56 yards rushing per game in two games. TU as a matter of fact has not got it going so far offensively averaging just 285 yards per game.
The Golden Tigers defense has also been shaky, giving up 426 yards to Alabama A&M in a loss.
Unlike the last two years when these teams met in Cleveland, this should be a defensive battle. Neither team has thrown an interception, but each team has lost three fumbles.
Whoever makes the least turnovers wins the game.
About Donal Ware
Donal Ware is the authority on HBCU football. Listen to Box to Row on Fridays 1p ET/10a PT on SiriusXM Channel 141 and Saturdays 12p/9a PT on SiriusXM Channel 142. You can follow Donal Ware on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorow and Facebook /box2row. Please share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.