At the heart of sports fans’ life-long ties to a program or team culture is the rivalry game. They spur media, engage communities, divide and unite families and most of all, add flavor to the game day atmosphere. For better or for worse.
Whether its annual regular season showdowns or football classics, HBCU rivalries are born and maintained out of fan angst, regional proximity and balance in competition between the two teams. As we look ahead to black college football 2012, here are five of today’s best HBCU football rivalries.
5. Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic - The annual game between two of the most renowned HBCUs in the nation is among the fiercest rivalries in black college sports today. It is more recently a game with meaningful competitive outcomes, but has long been an attraction for the Southeastern region and a staple for community branding for the two institutions.
4. Turkey Day Classic - The oldest college football rivalry in the country, the Turkey Day Classic is a football staple in Alabama and a cultural event. It is the Alabama State University homecoming, and is so important and lucrative, both schools willingly part with opportunities at the NCAA Playoffs to face each other annually.
3. Bayou Classic – The Bayou Classic is the most well-known and popular black college football classic in the United States, and features the in state rivals Grambling State University and Southern University. But with Eddie Robinson long departed from the GSU sidelines, and SWAC title implications having been absent from the game for a number of years, the contest has lost much luster, many fans, and maybe, its national broadcast deal with NBC beyond 2012.
2. Fountain City Classic – Albany State University and Fort Valley State University meet annually in the highly-anticipated SIAC showdown. With conference title implications tied to its outcome for the last few seasons, the game has often made or broken championship opportunities not only for the Rams and Wildcats, but for Tuskegee and other perennial contenders as well.
1. Florida Classic – The best attended black college football game of them all, the Florida Classic combines the best elements of the preceding four games and heightened regional animosity, marching band intrigue, media coverage and competitive leverage for the MEAC football title, as evidenced by last year’s outcome.