Football

History, tradition take center stage at annual Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic in Columbus

Tuskegee-Morehouse is not just any regular college football game.

The weekend of the Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic is always one of the most exciting in Columbus and this year should be no different. When the teams kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday in A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, it will be the 114th game between the Tuskegee University and Morehouse College football teams and the 84th straight year they have clashed in Columbus.

“I think about just the pageantry,” Morehouse coach Rich Freeman said. “The 84 years that the Classic has been held. I think about coming as close you can to having a Division I-A atmosphere, a bowl game-type atmosphere, and I think of the level of competition you’ll see from the football game. Great players, speed, showcased throughout both organizations on offense and defense.”

Between 1920 and 1958, Columbus was the venue for every game except one between Georgia and Auburn, until the rivalry grew too large for the site. The Bulldogs also faced Alabama a few times at Memorial Stadium. But those contests were not open to black Soldiers from Fort Benning or minority residents.

So the Classic’s founders, along with the athletic directors of Tuskegee and Morehouse, decided to create a new cultural and community event. Thus, the Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic was born. The first Tuskegee-Morehouse Football Classic was played in Columbus in 1936.

The game’s popularity has skyrocketed since its beginnings. Nicknamed the “granddaddy of all classics,” the game routinely draws thousands of spectators. And with festivities lined up all week across the tricommunity, the schools’ annual football classic goes way beyond the gridiron.

The week-long series of events began Sunday, with a worship service at Greater Beallwood Baptist Church. The game’s media day, hosted by Sportsvisions, was held Wednesday, with coaches and student-athletes from both schools, and a plethora of local high school prep teams, present. The annual Classic Parade, which ties into Freeman’s “pageantry” remark, takes place at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“I think about the bands,” Freeman said. “I think about the fashion that you’ll see throughout the stands as people maneuver. And, I think about the heat.”

Tuskegee leads the all-time series 72-28-7. Morehouse won last year’s game and enters the contest 2-3, whereas Tuskegee enters 1-4 and needs a win to turn around a rough start to its season.

“We need this game,” Tuskegee coach Willie Slater said. “We need to win this game, for the morale of our team, for a lot of different things. So, it’s really big for our team to play well in this game.”

The Tuskegee-Morehouse planning committee is staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers. The primary purpose of the Tuskegee-Morehouse Football Classic is to help raise funds for scholarships. To view the full list of events happening before Saturday’s 2 p.m. kickoff, visit www.tuskegee-morehouse.com. The game can be streamed live on ESPN3.

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Joshua Mixon is a reporter for the Ledger-Enquirer. He covers sports (Auburn and preps) and local news, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. He previously covered Georgia athletics for the Telegraph. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshDMixon.
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