Photo Caption: CHICAGO FOOTBALL CLASSIC Founder Larry Huggins poses with representatives of Central State University, Mississippi Valley State University, and HBCU GO. (Photos by Joseph Phillips)
Classic HBCU matchup resumes after three-year hiatus absence
After a three-year absence due to the pandemic, the Chicago Football Classic (CFC) returns to Soldier Field on Saturday, September 2, to kick-off the 25th season and play the historical HBCU football game matchup.
According to the CFC, the group held a press conference on Tuesday, July 18, announcing details of the matchup between Central State University and Mississippi Valley State University.
In addition to the game, the group’s goal is to connect Chicagoland students with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) through direct scholarships, HBCU College and Career Fairs, along with the Financial Empowerment Summit, all sponsored by BMO Harris Bank.
Chicago Football Classic founder Larry Huggins, in collaboration with representatives from Central State University, Mississippi Valley State University, business professionals and city officials, announced the return of the game with one phrase: “Are you ready for some football!”
Dubbed as the World’s largest Black College Class Reunion by Huggins and the CFC, this year’s Classic will feature several events leading up to the game including a Softball Game at Rainbow Beach, HBCU Day with the Cubs at Wrigley Field and a Pep Rally featuring a mini “Battle of the Bands” at Daley Plaza.
Other major events leading up to the Classic will include an annual Golf Outing at Harborside Golf Course, tailgating, Battle of the High School Bands and Battle of the Bands.
“When you stop and think about the history of this game and the fact we’ve been doing it for 25 years, this is kind of like a reunion of sorts,” said Huggins in an interview with the Crusader.
“So, you have to go back to the beginning of how we got here.”
Without the help of many business partners, Huggins said it wouldn’t be possible to provide millions of dollars in scholarships for students to attend HBCUs.
“This has become our legacy. This has become an institution in the city of Chicago. And that’s why we are passing the torch on to our children,” Huggins said.
The CFC stated that the events represent the passion and pageantry of HBCUs. Over $350,000 in scholarship funds will be given to 20 new and returning students from across the Chicagoland area, according to the organization.
A Jeep Gladiator, donated by presenting sponsor Sherman Dodge, will be raffled off with the winner to be announced at the end of the game. Proceeds from the raffle go toward the scholarships given out from the Chicago Football Classic Scholarship Fund.
In addition to the big game, the CFC has also partnered with Byron Allen’s “Allen Media Group (AMG)” free streaming digital platform HBCU GO as its broadcast partner for the game and will mark the kick-off to the 2023 HBCU football season.
The game can be streamed for FREE on the HBCU GO App (Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV) and will also air LIVE in Chicago on WGN-TV.
HBCU GO celebrates the achievements of African Americans by giving voice to Black Excellence every day of the year. Curtis Symonds, President of HBCU GO, shared the importance of the historical event.
“Basically when you look at an HBCU football/Classic ga me, you are bringing together two universities who have distinguished knowledge and history over the years as institutions,” said Symonds in an interview with the Crusader.
“And to bring your athletic programs into Chicago, which is basically the Midwest and definitely a historical moment. I think if I were a viewer or a listener today, I would pay attention to everything going on around the Classic, [especially the young people].”
According to the organization, HBCU GO is a cultural lifestyle destination and leading sports media provider that embraces and represents the voice of Black Excellence every day of the year through an all-new platform that captures the rich history, perspectives, and experiences at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
HBCU GO also provides a platform for emerging creatives in media production, branding, and broadcasting, offering viewers the best in live sports, original series, documentaries, films, comedy, and edutainment. Learn more about how to view the game at: hbcugo.tv.
Others who attended the Chicago Football Classic press conference included Central State University Head Football Coach Kevin Porter; Central State University Director of Athletics Kevicia Brown; Mississippi Valley State University Head Football Coach Kendrick Wade and Mississippi Valley State University Director of Athletics Hakim McClellan.
The event was moderated by anchorman Tahman Bradley of WGN News, who announced during the press conference that the Chicago Football Classic broadcast will air for the first time in history on the WGN Television Network.
CFC ADDRESSES THREE YEAR ABSENCE
During the game’s three year absence, corporate leaders throughout the Chicagoland area continued to partner with CFC to award $5,000 scholarships to area students annually, according to a previous story in the Crusader.
“Over the last four years alone, the Chicago Football Classic Scholarship Fund, Inc., has provided a platform where nearly $4 million have been awarded to students attending HBCUs,” said CFC via a press release. “In 2023, we are committed to doing more with the return of the Chicago Football Classic Game.”
The CFC’s passion and mission is to serve as many students as possible in the Chicagoland area, according to the organization. The group thrives off the commitment and generosity of ongoing presenting sponsors.
The sponsors of CFC include Sherman Dodge, BMO Harris Bank and NBC5 Chicago, along with other long-standing sponsors, such as the Chicago Cubs, Walgreens, Amazon, ComEd, Peoples Gas, and Eastlake Management.
“CFC is excited to continue their mission to support the educational goals of disadvantaged youth and ensure that those deserving scholars are not deprived of the opportunity to receive a higher education from Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” said the CFC.
“By recognizing scholarship recipients, CFC is encouraging them in their education, as well as planting a seed that could someday develop into great leadership talent and encourage the students to give back in hopes that they will support the ongoing efforts of The Chicago Football Classic. The game is a celebration of HBCUs and the funding arm of the scholarship program.”
The Chicago Football Classic, Inc., (CFC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire African American high school and college students through support for programs, initiatives and events that increase awareness of opportunities to achieve educational excellence.
Founded by brothers Everett and Tim Rand and Larry Huggins, in 1997, CFC events influence students and parents to consider the rich academic and cultural opportunities offered by Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago.