The Bayou Classic, holding its 48th consecutive contest Nov 27, 4:00 p.m., at New Orleans’ Caesars Superdome, is considered by most as the “Granddaddy” of all the prominent HBCU football classics.
It has held the consistent distinction of being the most popular, largest drawing and biggest revenue producing HBCU sporting event that celebrates the Black experience.
The game yearly pits two prominent SWAC teams, the Grambling State Tigers and the Southern University Jaguars. Historically, the two schools combined holds the most SWAC football titles (Grambling 25, Southern 19) and Black National championships (Grambling 15, Southern 11) and has represented the SWAC in 13 of the 15 post-season bowl games such as the Pelican, Heritage and Celebration Bowls.
Southern holds a slim 24-23 edge over Grambling in the Classic series.
The Bayou Classic represents a marriage made in heaven when the idea was generated of bringing the two powerhouse Louisiana HBCU football teams to Black culturally rich New Orleans.
They played the first year of the classic at Tulane Stadium in 1974. When the Louisiana Superdome opened the next year, the Bayou Classic moved there and has never looked back.
Natural disasters caused the only two exceptions the Classic was not played in New Orleans. In 2005, three months after the ravaging effects of Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the Superdome, the Classic was played in Houston.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the postponement and rescheduling of the Bayou Classic to April 2021, where it was played at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana, because the Superdome was committed to another event.
The Bayou Classic game regularly features many of the best football players HBCU has to offer. But Black college’s most prolific head coaches have graced the sidelines at the Bayou Classic during the series.
The iconic Eddie Robinson guided Grambling State through the series until his retirement after the 1997 season. He was replaced by one of his former players and Super Bowl XXII hero Doug Williams who coached the team from 1998-2003 and 2011-2013.
On the Southern sidelines, Pete Richardson ruled for 17 seasons (1993-2009) with Marino Casem (1987-1988, 1992) and Dawson Odums (2013-2020) also guiding the Jaguars.
The overall success of both the Grambling and Southern football programs have been one major factor in the Bayou Classic’s prestigious stature in the HBCU community. Other elements however have heavily contributed.
The game and surrounding events have long attracted the appearance of countless Black celebrities in the genres of athletes, entertainers, civil rights leaders, corporate and business leaders and elected officials.
The Classic also soaks in the deep and unapologetic Afrocentric culture deeply entrenched in the city of New Orleans.
And what would a HBCU football classic be without electrifying performances from each of the school’s marching bands, Grambling State’s Tiger Marching Band and Southern’s Human Jukebox, both fighting for bragging rights of their own in the Battle of the Bands?
Economically, the Bayou Classic attracts over 250,000 people overall and pumps upwards of $50 Million into the New Orleans district.
In the name of advanced technology, it was just announced that this Bayou Classic will also be the first game to feature in-game coach to player electronic communication, with the use of players’ helmets. The NCAA Football Rules Committee approved the waiver for the game this Saturday.
Events and activities are held from Thanksgiving Thursday to Saturday, when the game is preceded by the Bayou Classic Parade going through the streets of downtown New Orleans.
For more information, events and further history, visit www.mybayouclassic.com.