The buildup to this fall’s Commemorative Classic has started.
Never heard of the Commemorative Classic?
Here’s some background.
One hundred seventeen years ago, the nation’s first black college football game was played between Biddle Memorial University (later renamed Johnson C. Smith) and Livingstone College. Biddle defeated Livingstone 5-0 after a disputed Livingstone touchdown was called back by the official.
Now 117 years later, the two schools want to commemorate that game – and the role they played in helping create black college football – in an annual rematch called the Commemorative Classic.
The game would be played each year in Charlotte’s 23,000-seat Memorial Stadium.
At a press conference Tuesday at the Charlotte Convention Center, the presidents of both schools outlined an ambitious goal to make the annual game a regional event for African Americans, black churches, local businesses and the city of Charlotte. They compared the game’s potential economic impact to that of the CIAA basketball tournament.
Their vision goes beyond a mere football game. What they envision, really, is a weekend-long spectacular – step shows, awards dinners, scholarship presentations, historical look-backs, trophy presentations, marching bands, the works. And built into all of this, of course, would be another great excuse for the region’s African American community to come together and party … you know, CIAA-style.
An event of this magnitude is not without precedence in black college football. Most HBCU fans know of the Bayou Classic, the annual game where Louisiana rivals Grambling State and Southern University clash helmets. The Commemorative Classic could become our N.C. equivalent.
“This particular game is an idea whose time has come,” Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins said at Tuesday’s event. “It’s a natural.”
JCSU President Ronald Carter said the annual game could be an “economic stimulus package for this region.” If Charlotte is to become a world-class city, he added, it must have “great symbols.”
The two presidents called on Charlotte-area businesses, civic groups and elected officials to help support and promote the event. That means putting some dollars behind it.
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