Black college football officially gets underway Labor Day weekend in D.C. as the second annual AT&T Nation’s Football Classic kicks off on Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m. at RFK Stadium in Northeast Washington, D.C.
The meeting will mark the 2012 college football season opener for both Howard University and Morehouse College, and the second straight year the schools have faced off to open their seasons, restoring one of the longest-running football rivalries among Black colleges.
Howard head football coach Gary Harrell told the AFRO of the pride of being a part of a rivalry that dates from 1923.
“It’s definitely a wonderful feeling to be a part of a rivalry that goes back nearly 90 years ago,” said Harrell, who enters his second year as head coach of Howard’s football team. Howard held off Morehouse, 30-27, in last year’s game.
“Both Howard and Morehouse are great academic institutes, which makes the rivalry all that much more special. I can’t wait to play [them] again this year. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
For one reason or another, the Howard-Morehouse football rivalry had ended about 16 years ago. But it was revived in 2011 by Events DC Senior VP and Managing Director Erik Moses.
Moses told the AFRO that last year’s Classic was a great success, and he expects it to be even better in its second year.
“Anytime you have a first time event, it’s not going to be all smooth sailing so we had our challenges, but it turned out to be an incredible event,” Moses said.
“We were very pleased with the crowd turnout. About 18,000 people showed up, many of which were supporters of Morehouse and Spellman, so it was great seeing how many people who were excited to travel all the way to D.C. to be a part of the first Nation’s Football Classic.”
Moses said one of the main reasons Events DC created the Nation’s Football Classic was because he wanted to see football being played at the old RFK Stadium again. RFK, currently the home of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) D.C. United, had served as the home of the National Football League’s (NFL) Washington Redskins from 1961 through 1996. But with the pro team’s move to FedEx Field in Landover, Md. in 1996, it’s only been used as an American football venue a handful of times, most recently as the site of the EagleBank Bowl in 2008, 2009 and its successor, the Military Bowl in 2010.
Now, Moses hopes RFK Stadium can be the home of the annual Nation’s Football Classic for several years to come.
“RFK Stadium is clearly a football stadium,” Moses said. “It’s meant for football action, so we’re really enthusiastic about bringing back such an exciting sport to watch here in the old stadium.”
Moses also brought up several other fun events being planned leading up to the Nation’s Football Classic.
He said there will be a presidential symposium to discuss topics including social relationships and a focus on science, technology and math issues on Aug. 30 from mid-morning to late afternoon at Howard’s Cramton Auditorium. An invitation-only dinner named after famed actor, scholar and athlete Paul Robeson is to be held that night at the JW Marriott Hotel.
On Aug. 31, there will be “the Game before the Game,” a debate between students from Howard and Morehouse from 1-4 p.m. back at the Cramton Auditorium.
The AT&T Kickoff rally is also scheduled on Aug. 31 5:30-8 p.m. at the 9:30 Club, followed by the HBCU [Historically Black College and University] Alumni Mixer from 8-10 p.m., where a DJ from Howard will battle a DJ from Morehouse at the JW Marriott. The Pepsi Fan Festival featuring games, music and food starts on Sept. 1 at 11 a.m. at RFK Stadium’s parking lot and will last until kickoff time.
“Last year, we had a huge turnout for all of the events leading up to the game, especially the student debate,” Moses said. “I’m sure it’s going to be even more people showing up this year.”
For more information on the weekend, visit nationsfootballclassic.com.