Tomorrow’s Bayou Classic between Grambling State University and Southern University will offer a second straight year of postseason implications, economic impact and a showcase for the two of the nation’s proudest, but most vulnerable black college campuses. Here’s what people are saying about the monumental showdown.
On The Field
The SWAC Western Division crown is on the line as the Tigers and Jaguars will bring hot offenses into the game, with quarterbacks (GSU’s DeVante Kincade and SU’s Austin Howard) in focus.
Off The Field
Last year’s Bayou Classic drew over 67,000 attendees, a post-Katrina high for the most popular black college football classic in the country. Economic impact is already projected to exceed last year’s contest.
Last year, more than 67,800 patrons attended the game, the highest attendance since before Hurricane Katrina, when turnout regularly topped 70,000.
That was only about 2,000 people fewer than the number who attended last year’s Super Bowl, Grambling President Richard Gallot said Monday at a gathering to celebrate the weekend affair.
“When you add to that the $50 million economic impact that Bayou Classic generates, it’s a really big deal,” he said.
Both institutions are facing substantial challenges in funding and public branding. Both have faced massive budget cuts and damaging public relations hits from crime and corruption on and around campus.
A Bayou Classic with high scoring and a close finish in front of 70,000 plus fans won’t erase the fallout from those issues, but it could go a long way in helping stakeholders to reconnect with the identities of both schools and could galvanize more support around enrollment, philanthropy, and legislative priority.
Given the current political climate, and with economic impact surfacing as a major talking point for black colleges, a strong Bayou Classic could be a much-needed narrative antidote in a state with harsh higher ed outcomes past, and on the horizon.