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HBCU Football

Mark these Black college classics on your calendar

Longtime school rivalries and bragging rights underscore popular matchups

The start of football season is almost here, but for those who attended or love historically Black colleges and universities, this time of year means just a bit more. Just like those young kids dressed up imitating drum majors, many come out to watch the high-stepping marching bands and enjoy the unmistakable fellowship and camaraderie that combine to create the HBCU atmosphere.

Black college “classic” games can be traced back to the early 1920s, when Howard University began playing Lincoln University in Thanksgiving Day football games.

Below are descriptions of 14 classics, including nationally broadcast and regional matchups, as well as a complete calendar of the 2023 HBCU football classic season. All game times are Eastern.

Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge

The matchup: Jackson State vs. South Carolina State
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26, Center Parc Stadium, Atlanta
How to watch: ABC
2022 score: Alabama State 23, Howard 13
2022 attendance: 21,088
The rundown: The yearly kickoff of HBCU football is back! This year is a rematch of the 2021 Celebration Bowl, only this time Jackson State will be led by a new head coach, T.C. Taylor. Since playing in the inaugural MEAC/SWAC Challenge in 2015, the S.C. State Bulldogs are 3-1 in Challenge appearances while the Jackson State Tigers are 0-2 and looking to pick up their first win.
Information: www.meacswacchallenge.com

Chicago Football Classic

The matchup: Central State vs. Mississippi Valley State
When and where: 4 p.m. Sept. 2, Soldier Field, Chicago
How to watch: HBCU GO
2019 score: Hampton 41, Howard 20
2019 attendance: 19,425
The rundown: After a three-year hiatus, the Chicago Football Classic has returned. The festivities start with a Greek step show and a golf outing for fans who like to get on the green. Richard J. Daley Plaza will host a pep rally with cheerleaders, drum lines and dance teams. The game day schedule includes a HBCU college and career fair in the morning, a battle of high school bands midday and a traditional tailgate party.
Information: www.chicagofootballclassic.org

Prudential Brick City HBCU Kickoff Classic

The matchup: Grambling State vs. Hampton
When and where: 3 p.m. Sept. 2; Red Bull Arena; Harrison, New Jersey
How to watch: NFL Network
The rundown: It’s a new classic with high hopes for the future. The weekend is filled with events such as Skate Night, the Yard Fest Pep Rally and the Parade of Bands before culminating with the game.
Information: www.brickcityclassic.com

Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic

The matchup: Morehouse vs. Virginia Union
When and where: 4 p.m. Sept. 3; Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium; Canton, Ohio
How to watch: NFL Network
2022 score: Central State 41, Winston-Salem State 21
2022 attendance: 13,989
The rundown: The schedule of events includes college and career fairs, Fellowship Day, Community Day, a gospel concert featuring Tamela Mann and the adults-only All-White Affair. Game day opens with an interfaith service before the tailgate.
Information: https://www.profootballhof.com/black-college-football-hall-of-fame-classic

Orange Blossom Classic

The matchup: Jackson State vs. Florida A&M
When and where: 3 p.m. Sept. 3; Hard Rock Stadium; Miami Gardens, Florida
How to watch: ESPN
2022 score: Jackson State 59, FAMU 3
2022 attendance: 39,907
The rundown: Is this the last time FAMU will ever play in the classic? Will this game determine the winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference East region? Many questions surround this game, which also features a battle of the bands between FAMU’s Marching 100 and Jackson State’s Sonic Boom of the South. Besides the game, Labor Day weekend in Miami will be filled with parties, a step show competition and parade.
Information: www.orangeblossomclassic.com

Southern Heritage Classic

The matchup: Arkansas Pine-Bluff vs. Tennessee State
When and where: 7 p.m. Sept. 9; Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium; Memphis, Tennessee
How to watch: HBCU GO
2022 score: Jackson State 16, Tennessee State 3
2022 attendance: 51,351
The rundown: The weekend kicks off with a concert headlined by Grammy-winning singer Gladys Knight. There also will be a college and career fair, tailgating and a parade, but you can’t miss the game or the bands performing in the 5th Quarter afterward.
Information: www.southernheritageclassic.com

BoomBox Classic

The matchup: Jackson State vs. Southern
When and where: 7 p.m. Sept. 9; A.W. Mumford Stadium; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
How to watch: ESPN+
2022 score: Jackson State 35, Southern 0
2022 attendance: 53,885
The rundown: The historic rivalry game gets amped up even more with two of the most recognized HBCU bands, the Jackson State Sonic Boom of the South and the Human Jukebox of Southern University.
Information: https://gojagsports.com/index.aspx

Aggie-Eagle Classic

The matchup: North Carolina Central vs. North Carolina A&T
When and where: 7 p.m. Sept. 9, Truist Stadium, Greensboro, North Carolina
How to watch: FloSports
2022 score: N.C. Central 28, N.C. A&T 13
2022 attendance: 35,798
The rundown: The century-old rivalry returns with a date in Greensboro. With only 55 miles separating the two universities, it’s hard to get more intense than this. The North Carolina Central Eagles, who defeated the N.C. A&T Aggies last year for the first time since 2016, are looking for back-to-back wins.
Information: nccueaglepride.com, ncataggies.com

Toyota HBCU NY Classic

The matchup: Albany State vs. Morehouse
When and where: 3 p.m. Sept. 16; MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, New Jersey
How to watch: CNBC, Peacock, NBC Sports App
2022 score: Howard 30, Morehouse 0
2022 attendance: 35,042
The rundown: The second annual classic returns with a week of events for all ages. The lineup ranges from luncheons and High School Education Day to a debate and step show all before gametime.
Information: hbcunyclassic.com

Truth and Service Classic

The matchup: Hampton vs. Howard
When and where: 3:30 p.m. Sept. 16; Audi Field; Washington
How to watch: TBA
2022 score: Harvard 41, Howard 25
2022 attendance: 8,097
The rundown: This year the Truth and Service Classic is home to the battle of the real HU. The deep-rooted rivalry goes back to the teams’ inaugural meeting in 1908. This game of bragging rights gets to determine who holds the crown of “The Real HU” – at least until the next matchup.
Information: https://audifield.com/truth-and-service-classic

Circle City Classic

The matchup: Mississippi Valley State vs. North Carolina Central
When and where: 3 p.m. Sept. 23, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
How to watch: Valley State Sports Network
2021 score: Kentucky State 34, Benedict 28
2021 attendance: 8,122
The rundown: After a one-year hiatus, the Circle City Classic is back. Founded in 1984, the annual HBCU battle brings a full weekend of events to Indianapolis, including a pep rally, a concert featuring R&B singers Fantasia and Joe and a Greek stroll competition.
Information: circlecityclassic.com

Magic City Classic

The matchup: Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State
When and where: 3:30 p.m. Oct. 28; Legion Field; Birmingham, Alabama
How to watch: ESPN+
2022 score: Alabama State 24, Alabama A&M 17
2022 attendance: 67,532
The rundown: The annual in-state SWAC rivalry game, first played in 1940, continues when Alabama State faces Alabama A&M, which leads the series. The pageantry surrounding this classic game starts with an early morning parade and a tailgate party before kickoff. The halftime show features a showdown between the bands, and you can’t miss the 5th Quarter.
Information: www.magiccityclassic.com

Florida Blue Florida Classic

The matchup: Bethune-Cookman vs. Florida A&M
When and where: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 18; Camping World Stadium; Orlando, Florida
How to watch: ESPN+
2022 score: Florida A&M 41, Bethune-Cookman 20
2022 attendance: 55,257
The rundown: This intrastate rivalry dates to 1978. This classic weekend kicks off with a job fair, followed by a luncheon and the annual Battle of the Bands, highlighting high school and college bands. Tailgating and the Florida Classic Fanfest will take place outside the stadium before kickoff. Florida A&M leads the series 46-24-1.
Information: floridaclassic.org

Bayou Classic

The matchup: Grambling State vs. Southern
When and where: 2 p.m. Nov. 25, Caesars Superdome, New Orleans
How to watch: NBC and Peacock
2022 score: Southern 34, Grambling State 17
2022 attendance: 62,337
The rundown: Two days after Thanksgiving, fans will flood the Big Easy for this heated intrastate matchup. The biggest pregame highlight is the Greek Show & Battle of the Bands headlined by the Human Jukebox of Southern and the Grambling State World Famed Tiger Marching Band. Southern has defeated Grambling 25 times since the inaugural game in 1974, but Grambling will look to even the series in the 50th annual game.
Information: mybayouclassic.com

Complete schedule of Black college classics 

Aug. 26

7:30 p.m.: Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge, Atlanta
Jackson State University vs. South Carolina State University

Sept. 2

2 p.m.: Virginia Lottery Labor Day Classic, Norfolk, Virginia
Virginia State University vs. Norfolk State University

3 p.m.: Prudential Brick City HBCU Kickoff Classic, Harrison, New Jersey
Grambling State University vs. Hampton University

4 p.m.: Chicago Football Classic, Chicago
Central State University vs. Mississippi Valley State University

6 p.m.: Labor Day Classic, Montgomery, Alabama
Southern University vs. Alabama State University

6 p.m.: Big Cat Classic, Jacksonville, Florida
Florida Memorial University vs. Edward Waters University

6 p.m.: Carolinas Classic, Columbia, South Carolina
Shaw University vs. Benedict College

8 p.m.: Labor Day Classic, Houston
Prairie View A&M University vs. Texas Southern University

Sept. 3

3 p.m.: Orange Blossom Classic, Miami Gardens
Jackson State University vs. Florida A&M University

4 p.m.: Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic, Canton, Ohio
Morehouse College vs. Virginia Union University

7 p.m.: Red Tails Classic, Montgomery, Alabama
Fort Valley State University vs. Tuskegee University

Sept. 9

1 p.m.: Down East Viking Classic, Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Elizabeth City State University vs. Saint Augustine’s University

1 p.m.: Eddie McGirt Classic, Charlotte, North Carolina
Walsh University (Ohio) vs. Johnson C. Smith University

6 p.m.: Battle of the Bay, Hampton, Virginia
Norfolk State University vs. Hampton University

7 p.m.: BoomBox Classic, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Jackson State University vs. Southern University

7 p.m.: Louis Crews Classic, Huntsville, Alabama
Lane College vs. Alabama A&M University

7 p.m.: Southern Heritage Classic, Memphis, Tennessee
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff vs. Tennessee State University

7 p.m.: Aggie-Eagle Classic, Greensboro, North Carolina
North Carolina Central University vs. North Carolina A&T State University

Sept. 16

3 p.m.: Toyota HBCU NY Classic Football Classic, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Albany State University vs. Morehouse College

3:30 p.m.: Truth and Service Classic, Washington .
Hampton University vs. Howard University

6 p.m.: John A. Merritt Classic, Nashville, Tennessee
Gardner-Webb University vs. Tennessee State University

7 p.m. Delta Classic, Cleveland, Mississippi
Mississippi Valley State University vs. Delta State University

Sept. 23

3 p.m.: Circle City Classic, Indianapolis
Mississippi Valley State University vs. North Carolina Central University

3 p.m.: Coastal City HBCU Football Classic, Brunswick, Georgia
Albany State University vs. Savannah State University

6 p.m.: Willard Bailey Classic, Richmond, Virginia
Fayetteville State University vs. Virginia Union University

7 p.m.: W.C. Gorden Classic, Jackson, Mississippi
Bethune-Cookman University vs. Jackson State University

Sept. 30

7 p.m.: State Fair Classic, Dallas
Grambling State University vs. Prairie View A&M University

Oct. 7

8 p.m.: Morehouse-Tuskegee Classic, Birmingham, Alabama
Morehouse College vs. Tuskegee University

Oct. 28

2 p.m.: AME Football Classic, Columbia, South Carolina
Edward Waters University vs. Allen University (South Carolina)

3:30 p.m.: Magic City Classic, Birmingham, Alabama
Alabama A&M University vs. Alabama State University

Nov. 4

1 p.m.: L. Douglas Wilder Classic, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia State University vs. Virginia Union University

1 p.m.: Raleigh Classic, Raleigh, North Carolina
Shaw University vs. St. Augustine’s University

1 p.m.: Commemorative Classic, Charlotte, North Carolina
Livingstone College vs. Johnson C. Smith University

2 p.m.: Fountain City Classic, Columbus, Georgia
Fort Valley State University vs. Albany State University

5 p.m.: Port City Classic, Mobile, Alabama
Grambling State University vs. Alabama State University

Nov. 18

3:30 p.m.: Florida Blue Florida Classic, Orlando, Florida
Bethune-Cookman University vs. Florida A&M University

Nov. 23

3 p.m.: Turkey Day Classic, Montgomery, Alabama
Tuskegee University vs. Alabama State University

Nov. 25

2 p.m. Bayou Classic, New Orleans
Grambling State University vs. Southern University

Lawrence Goss, a 2024 Rhoden Fellow and senior broadcast journalism major who hails from Atlanta, has worked as an anchor at Rattler Take, the school’s news platform. He holds an active leadership role with three on-campus organizations and serves as the lead sports editor for the school's newspaper, The Famuan.