FLORIDA CLASSIC 2019
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman University (BCU) linebacker Devin James’ intercepted the ball from Florida A&M University (FAMU) quarterback Ryan Stanley with 1:25 left in the Florida Blue Florida Classic.
That play led B-CU to defeat FAMU nine straight. This time it was 31-27 in front of 55,730 attendees at Camping World Stadium on Nov. 23.
The attendance was the largest since 2011 when 60,218 spectators were there and B-CU defeated FAMU 26-16. At last year’s Florida Classic, 52,142 were in attendance as B-CU took home another win, 33-19.
The Wildcats extended their Classic win streak to nine games; their longest in the series and snapped a three-game losing streak.
“It’s a great win. We had been frustrated and struggling. We prepared and fought hard. The way the game closed out shows how hard our guys wanted to win,” said Terry Sims, B-CU’s head football coach.
The Rattlers had their nine-game winning streak snapped. Their previous lost was to the University of Central Florida on Sept. 30 to open the year.
“Obviously, it hurts. We worked hard but couldn’t make enough plays to win. We head coach.
The Florida Classic is more than just a football event for the schools, teams, bands, cheerleaders, fans and alumni.
The event often brings family and friends together for the game and its surrounding activities.
Randolph Bryant of Tampa was wearing a Bethune-Cookman jersey while still tailgating with family and friends over an hour after the game.
Bryant told the Florida Courier, “I haven’t been in the game for the past four years. I am representing B-CU since my daughter attends the school. I just come to have a good time. I love the environment which is friendly and family-oriented.”
Tailgating after game
Jarvelin Ardley lives in Houston, Texas. She is a Florida A&M alumnus and her aunt, Dr. Tiffany Ardley is a professor at the school.
Ardley was wearing FAMU gear and still tailgating with family and friends right outside the stadium an hour after the game.
“We tailgate and go to the game each and every year with family and friends. Many of us are Rattler alumnus or have family members attending or have gone to FAMU. It’s always fun. We have a good time. It’s a family reunion for us,” said Ardley.
The Florida Classic is also an opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs. The event brings in multiple millions to Orlando over the weekend.
Darryn Ferguson sold T-shirts right outside of Camping World Stadium through a company called Moving On Tee’s from Miami.
His crew was packing up merchandise and breaking down their tent over an hour after the game.
“I don’t know how well we did because I haven’t added up the figures yet. We’ve been doing the Classic for five years now; historically we have done quite well,” he said.
Shrimp, wings and more
Each year, the Florida Classic brings hundreds of thousands of spectators, fans, alumni and businesses to Orlando.
There are plenty of food options around the stadium. Vendors reported doing well.
Tropical Smoothie of Orlando was selling all types of food, including seafood, lamb, oxtails, chicken wings and shrimp.
“We’ve done the Classic for the past five years. We do well over the weekend. It definitely boosts business,” said Pablo Burgess, owner of Tropical Smoothie.
But perhaps the person who had the best time of the night was B-CU’s Devin James, who caught that game-winning interception.
That wasn’t his only shining moment in the game. He came up with a huge fumble recovering in the third quarter.
“It feels great. It was my first interception of my career. I dropped four. Ryan is a good quarterback. I just jumped in the air and got lucky,” James said after the game.
Top HBCU event
The Florida Blue Florida Classic is the largest football game among historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the country, surpassing the Bayou Classic between Grambling and Southern in New Orleans.
The series between the schools go back to 1925. However, since 1978, the event has been dubbed the Florida Classic.
The game was played in Tampa from 1978 through 1996, but it has really grown and blossomed since moving to Orlando in 1997.
About 2 million spectators have attended the Florida Classic throughout its history.
Information from BCU Athletics was added to this report.