Unless you’re in Birmingham, really up on HBCU sports, a big fan of FCS and DII Football (or, more likely, a black college student), you probably didn’t know that every year Birmingham’s Legion Field hosts the largest Historically Black College and University (HBCU) football game in the country, featuring Huntsville’s Alabama A&M and Montgomery’s Alabama State University.
The Magic City Classic.
The history of the nation’s HBCUs is fascinating. And, while that lies outside the scope of this countdown project, I do encourage you to check out the HBCU project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for more information.
There are many games that get as much, if not more, run nationally: Grambling vs. Southern, Texas Southern vs. Prairie View A&M, Hampton vs. Howard, etc. But, our small state of just under 5 million, boasts a tremendous HBCU enrollment, with about 20% of Alabama’s black students earning their degrees at an HBCU. So, when Tuskegee and Miles square off, or Alabama A&M suits up against Alabama State, it becomes a wide open, fiercely contested affair of close ball games.
While it is not the first classic (Grambling vs. rotating SWAC opponents), or the first HBCU classic game to feature permanent opponents (that honor belongs to Miles and ASU in Montgomery’s Turkey Day game), none are larger than the Magic City Classic.
But the MCC is so much more than a football game. It is an entire festive weekend — parades, step shows, entertainment and sound stages, dance competitions, amazing halftime shows, the world famous HBCU Battles of Battles of the Bands, and the 5th Quarter victory performances.
This game has traditionally taken place in late October, so it often conflicts with Third Saturday — this year, for instance is on October 26 — but it is absolutely worth going and checking out one year. There are few things with as much of a college vibe or with a more joyous atmosphere than an HBCU classic.
I don’t regret for one second missing an Alabama game in 2002 to check out the Magic City Classic (a razor-thin 23-20 Alabama A&M win). It gave my daughter and me the memory of a lifetime.
Along the way, they played a little football too.
47 Days until Football Season