The civil rights movement in the United States was well underway several decades prior to the major changes made in the 60’s and 70’s. On the gridiron— an American staple of entertainment, competition and community— Historically Black Colleges and Universities took steps to give African-American college football players the same opportunities as everybody else. They accomplished their goal by constructing respectable and competitive programs and by creating their own traditions. The AT&T Nation’s Football Classic will carry out one of those traditions this fall.
Every year, rival programs from Howard University and Morehouse College square off in the Nation’s Football Classic. This game has been played annually for over 90 years. The Historically Black Colleges and Universities participating began the event at a time where their players didn’t have the opportunity to play at whatever school their skill set granted. The Classic gave African-Americans a venue and a program to compete and participate in before anything else did. Now with a NCAA player pool rich in diversity, progress and history are honored at the Nation’s Football Classic.
The game itself will be an exciting clash of two respected and storied programs, but the Classic as a whole is a full-scale, weekend long event. The night before the game, the AT&T Kickoff Rally will amp up attendees with recording artists and famous hosts curating the weekend’s exciting start. The next day, the game will be prepared for with the Pepsi Fan Festival. Stocked with games, music and exhibits, this fun event on location at RFK Stadium will speak to the metagame influence the Classic holds as a whole. It will also provide for a fun time. Finally, at 3:30pm on Saturday, September 13th, the Howard University Bison will take the field against the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers. The game itself promises to be an extraordinary display of athletic ability. The weekend will tie up on Sunday with a chapel service at Howard University on Sunday.
The whole weekend of the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic is a great opportunity to contextualize the fantastic state of college sports. Millions of us watch the games every Sunday, but the steps that were taken to make them what they are also merit attention and celebration.