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.