City’s gridiron matchup a Classic success

When businessman Larry Huggins and his partner Everett Rand first took over the Chicago Football Classic 11 years ago, there were those who thought they were wasting their time.

When businessman Larry Huggins and his partner Everett Rand first took over the Chicago Football Classic 11 years ago, there were those who thought they were wasting their time.ááááá

Black College football classics, they were told, just don’t work in large urban areas in the North. While highly successful classics have been held all across the South for over 80 years, big cities in the North seemed to ignore the game of college football.

“We knew it would be a challenge bringing a Black college football game here to Chicago,” Huggins said. “However, we feel we have done a great job.

“Before, the closest place Black college football fans in Chicago could see a Black college game was 200 miles away in Indianapolis. Now, they can stay at home and enjoy it,” Huggins said.

This year’s game will pit Central State (Ohio) against West Virginia State on Sept. 6. Because of the contract the Bears have with the Chicago Park District and Soldier Field, which indicates that no football games can be played at Soldier Field 48 hours prior to a Bears game, Huggins had to wait until the Bears schedule was released by the NFL to set a date for a game.

Everything was ironed out and Central State agreed to move their home date with West Virginia State here.

“It wasn’t easy getting a game here, but we got it worked out,” Huggins said.

The Classic continues to grow each year. Last year’s game between Mississippi Valley and Southern (Baton Rouge, La.) attracted over 40,000 fans, the largest in the history of the game.

As is the case with other Classics, there will be a Battle of the Bands at halftime. Huggins said he also hopes to have a college fair prior to the game. Huggins said he is seeking a permanent date for the Classic and is looking to get two schools to play here each year. “The Classic is about more than football,” Huggins added. “It’s about showing youngsters the opportunities open to them at Historically Black Colleges.”

Officials with the annual Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference/ Southwestern Athletic Conference Challenge between Hampton and Jackson State, Aug. 31 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., announced the creation of the Walter Payton Achievement Award.

This year’s award recipients are Jackson State linebacker Marcus Smith and Hampton wide receiver Kevin Teel.

The award not only honors players for their accomplishments on the field but also in the classroom. “This award is special,” said Payton’s son, Jarrett. “When you think about awards being named after someone, you had to have done something significant. My dad finished his degree [at Jackson State] in just three years, which shows that he was a student first and athlete second.”

Smith, one of the top-returning linebackers in SWAC this season, said winning the Payton award is special for him.

“This is a great honor to receive in the name of Payton,” Smith said. “He was an incredible role model on and off the field.

“Receiving awards like this continue to motivate me to strive for higher and higher goals.”

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