East Rutherford, NJ - In contrast to the recent criticism of Grambling State's fans by Jackson State's head football coach Deion Sanders, two prestigious yet smaller HBCU fanbases 'Showed Up and Showed Out' at the HBCU NYC Football Classic.
2022 HBCU NYC Football Classic Fans and Festivities
35,042 attendees in MetLife Stadium flocked to the Meadowlands to prove faithful alums, fans, and friends are willing to travel, participate, and support HBCU football programs at classic games.
"We love our schools and will be there regardless of their records," one Morehouse fan expressed.
I witnessed the excitement and buzz from thousands of HBCU tailgaters partying in MetLife's parking lots. Also represented were FAMU fans among the sea of Maroon and Blue tents on the asphalt.
The reality starkly contrasted the negative narrative about the HBCU games played in stadiums away from campuses — Orange Blossom Classic, Southern Heritage Classic, Aggie-Eagle Mayo Classic, and the JSU vs. Bethune-Cookman games.
These alumni and fans of both institutions should be applauded for arriving without plenty of 'pomp and circumstance' promoting the match.
Morehouse and Howard's fanatics from near and far proved that you could cheer and support a non-winning program. Neither fanbase followed a championship team, but the fellowship and being a part of history in the inaugural contest made their trips worthwhile, regardless of records.
Academy Award winner Spike Lee, a Morehouse graduate, led the coin toss at midfield with the Maroon Tigers before kickoff. Other notable celebrities, politicians, and entertainers were also in attendance for the clash of old rivals.
HBCU faithful from far as Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, D.C., and many other cities came in support of 'The House,' 'H.U.,' and HBCUs.
The two schools last played their nearly century-old game in 2015. As a Morehouse grad, I witnessed a hard-fought and highly-contested match, but we knew the probable outcome would favor the Bison. And, it did, 31-0.
As in years past, we still would make the drive from Atlanta to D.C. for the moment, the event, and to have fun on The Yard.
HBCUs may have "fair-weather fans" who avoid traveling or offering support for their alma maters; this wasn't the case at the 2022 HBCU NYC Football Classic.
Should both programs improve on the field, next year's numbers and fan engagement will increase and dispel the notion that classic games "don't matter."