Speaking Out: Changing the Bayou Classic - A Proposal

AN ORIGINAL ©MIKE LUCKOVICH CARTOON FOR NEW ORLEANS MAGAZINE

We have a proposal for the annual Bayou Classic football game, which we think will be better for the event, the teams and the city.  Our suggestion is this: Have the game at the beginning of each football season rather than at the end.

Each Thanksgiving weekend the game matching Southern University against Grambling University is played in the Superdome. The media routinely use all their clichés, such as “all the record books are thrown out the window when these two teams play,” and boosters talk about the economic significance of the event. There are, however, some inherent problems: One is that The Classic isn’t really a classic. Since it always matches the same two teams it isn’t of the same importance as a bowl game. Theoretically both teams can come to the game winless or with mismatched records and still be part of a “classic.” (Last year Grambling had a 9-2 record; Southern went 2-9. Grambling won The Classic 38-17.)

If the game were played as the season opener both teams would take the field undefeated with identical 0-0 records. Injuries would not as yet have taken their tolls.

The anticipated young prospects on the teams could show their stuff. Most of all, the splendid marching bands from both schools could make their seasonal debut.

Played in November,  The Classic is overshadowed for attention by the competition for major bowl games. The timing also creates injury risks should one of the teams be in line to play in its conference championship game a week later (not unlike the Saints having to be cautious about their starters in the final week of the season if they are heading for the playoffs). In the first week legs are fresh and everyone can go full-speed.

From an economic standpoint the game would probably do the city more good in late August or early September rather than in late November. Thanksgiving weekend has a high potential for attracting regional travelers staying three or four nights. The Classic attracts many day-trippers and has more of a spring break atmosphere. Tourism is softer at the end of summer. The business is needed more then.

One other benefit to advancing the game is that it could help the state’s mental health. We are serious! Many Louisianians suffer from “Football Withdrawal.” Each summer we have noticed an increase in people yearning for football season to begin. An early season match-up of two historic rivals would provide a tonic that is truly a classic.
 

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Reader Comments:
Nov 8, 2011 04:49 pm
 Posted by  jujub

I am a BIG football fan and a Southernite (graduate of Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA). With that, I have to address your suggestion of changing the Bayou Classic date from both perspectives.
First, I am one of those die hard ball fans that is very much in the final stages of football withdrawal come August. Unfortunately, a Southern vs Grambling game would not do anything to satisfy my craving for football. The Classic is a football game yes-- a gridiron battle it is not. Adding to that, because both are Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) teams, it matters not what time of year they play for a win by either team determines its standing in the SWAC. More importantly, the true competition at the Classic takes place the Friday night before the game at the Battle of the Bands and during the half time show of the game.
Bayou Classic is a true “classic” in that it’s a traditional rivalry between two schools that play each year both with stadiums of insufficient capacity to host attendees. If you are not an alum or student of one of the two HBCU's (Historically Black College or University) you really would not understand the significance of the game as a Classic or the time of year it takes place.
Its Thanksgiving holiday weekend schedule is imperative because it’s a reunion-more than a game. Generally most people have the Friday following Thanksgiving off from work. That allows for alumni to travel to New Orleans and partake in the weekend festivities. I live in New Orleans, just seven minutes from downtown and I check into a hotel the day after Thanksgiving and contribute to the sellouts during the Classic weekend annually.
The Classic is played at the right time of the year. It’s on the cusp of college bowl season. Most HBCU alumni won’t have the opportunity to see their school compete in a major bowl game. The Classic allows HBCU alum to attend a game that has the atmosphere and energy of a bowl game and visit the greatest city in all of America.

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