12th Annual Chicago Football Classic pits conference foes

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It is a Southwestern Athletic Conference game, but it is so much more.

It is the 12th annual Chicago Football Classic, featuring the Hornets of Alabama State University (Montgomery, Ala.) facing the Mississippi Valley State University Delta Devils (Itt

It is a Southwestern Athletic Conference game, but it is so much more.

It is the 12th annual Chicago Football Classic, featuring the Hornets of Alabama State University (Montgomery, Ala.) facing the Mississippi Valley State University Delta Devils (Itta Bena, Miss.)

The ASU Hornets enter the contest with a 3-0 record, having won its opening games against Concordia College (38-33), Savannah State (20-17), and Edward Waters (38-6). The Delta Devils are 0-2 having lost their season opener against Arkansas State (61- 0) and home opener against Arkansas Pine Bluff (27-7).

Hornet head football Coach Reggie Barlow said his team is prepared for what will be their first SWAC match up.

“Coming to Chicago to play Mississippi Valley State will be huge for us,” Barlow told the Defender. “We know they will have a highpowered offense to go against us and they have a lot of talented players.

“I played in Chicago twice as a player,” Barlow said, “both times against Jackson State. It is a good learning vehicle for the players. This will be good for our players because it exposes them to huge crowds. For some of them, it is the first time they are flying on an airplane.”

Barlow, in his third season as head coach, noted the significance of this being a SWAC game.

“I’ve been blessed to play in the SWAC, and play in the NFL and now coach in the SWAC. We have a few classic games, and we’re talking about 50, 60 and 70 thousand fans who come out to those games, Black people in the stadiums.

uno.jpg“It is a different feel to those games, a different feel in those stadiums,” said Barlow. “The SWAC is built on a lot of tradition. We had the best running back in the history of pro football, Walter Payton, come out of SWAC. We had the best wide receiver in history, Jerry Rice, come out of SWAC. We had Doug Williams who won a Super Bowl, come out of SWAC, and Steve McNair, who quarterbacked his team to the Super Bowl. Our conference is built having great players.”

ASU President William H. Harris also expressed his excitement about being a part of the Chicago Football Classic.

“We have a great student base in Chicago and we have a large contingent of alumni there also,” said Harris. “We welcome the opportunity to bring the ASU flavor to Chicago.”

Both football teams are led by coaches who also played football at the school. Barlow was a highly sought receiver/kick returner for the Hornets before being drafted by the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mississippi Valley State h e a d coach Willie Totten has the distinction of playing his home games in a stadium named after him.

Totten, the 14th head coach in MVSU history, and former teammate Jerry Rice were honored in 1999 by having the former Magnolia Stadium be renamed Rice-Totten Stadium. Totten and Rice re-wrote NCAA passing and receiving statistics during their college days, with Totten being known as “The Satellite.”

Totten also played in the NFL with the B u f f a l o Bills, and a l s o played in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League before beginning his coaching career at Grambling State University under legendary coach Eddie Robinson.

Totten may have a bit of home field advantage at the Classic, since he has seven players on his squad from Chicago area high schools, including two from Harlan and one from Simeon.

The Classic was formed in 1997 by a group of Chicago businessmen: Larry Huggins, Everett Rand, Tim Rand and William Garth. Their goal was to empower African American youth for greater academic achievement and to encourage them to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The CFC has emerged as a premier national athletic event, featuring showdowns between the nation’s top HBCU’s. The ASU-MVSU match-up promises to continue that tradition. The Chicago Football Classic involves several days of activities. The festivities kick off on Wednesday, September 23, with the High School Bands Battle sponsored by the Black McDonalds Operators Association. Other events include the President’s Reception on Thursday, and the Golf Outing, Greek Step Show and Pep Rally on Friday.

One of the main events for Friday will be HBCU college fair sponsored by the Black McDonalds Operators Association. Thousands of students and parents are expected to be on hand at the College Fair to gather information from HBCUs from across the country and to participate in workshops on college grants and scholarships.

Saturday morning’s events include a career fair and a high school battle of the bands sponsored by Walgreens.

The Classic also features exciting entertainment. National recording artist Bobby Valentino will perform at the pre-game concert at 2 p.m. Fans will also enjoy an electrifying half-time performance featuring R&B singer K’Jon, sponsored by Grey Goose.

For more on event times and locations, please visit the Chicago Football Classic Web site at http://www.chicagofootballclassic.biz

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