Bragging rights again for B-CU
Wildcats trounce Rattlers in game that brings together rivals, friends, families
BY FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
Neither threat of rain nor traffic jams could keep Florida Classic fans away from this year’s showdown between the Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats and Florida A&M University. After all, this is more than a football game, more than an annual clash of in-state rivals on a neutral gridiron.
Despite the intermittent rain and snarls on Orlando’s Interstate 4, 45,728 made their way to the Florida Citrus Bowl and witnessed B-CU make history. The Daytona Beach-based team won 34-14, its fifth Florida Classic in a row.
The Nov. 21 game had the largest Classic crowd since 2011, when there were 60,218 spectators.
The pre-Thanksgiving weekend extravaganza is a time for classmates from both schools to reunite and families to connect.
Rattler with Wildcat roots
For Priscilla Johnson, a 1980 FAMU grad who grew up in Daytona Beach, it was a chance to catch up with loved ones from both schools. Johnson and her husband, Dave, traveled from Atlanta, where she resides. It had been more than 10 years since she had attended the game.
“Despite the rain, we had a great time. It was nice to reconnect with friends I had not seen in years, watching the band and cheering alongside the crowd of Rattler fans who came out to support FAMU,” she told the Florida Courier.
The Daytona Beach native said with a laugh that the game was fun despite the big loss to the Wildcats. Her brother, however, and other B-CU fans teased her afterward about the big loss.
“I enjoyed my HBCU family and laughed with the B-CU fans too because I grew up a Wildcat before becoming a Rattler. I’m already looking forward to next year.’’
36th Florida Classic
Billed as the nation’s largest HBCU sports event, it was the 36th Florida Classic, now sponsored by Florida Blue. It also marked the 70th football game between B-CU and FAMU.
With the Nov. 21 win, the Wildcats went on to share the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title with North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T. However, there will no playoffs for the team that ended the regular season 9-2 and 7-1 in conference play. FAMU ended the season 1-10.
One of the thrills at any HBCU game is the halftime Battle of the Bands. This year’s halftime show was no exception.
The B-CU Marching Wildcats got props for its rendition of Tyrese’s stirring ballad “Shame.’’ The band’s rendition even got a tweet of approval from celebrity Steve Harvey.
And many Rattler fans cheered as the Marching 100 turned itself into a cannon and fired off smoke in the sidelines at B-CU’s band.
Andrew “J.R.’’ Tarver, a 1982 Bethune-Cookman graduate and former Marching Wildcat, describes the Florida Classic as “an institution.’’
“The Classic ceased to be a game decades ago. It has become a bit more than an event. An institution best describes it,” noted Tarver, who grew up in Tampa but lives in the Orlando area with his family.
“There have been more than a half-dozen generations witness this happening. It’s history being made before your very eyes,” he added, noting that the B-CU-FAMU annual game has allowed fans to see Hall of Famers play as well as having exposure to some great coaches.
He concluded, “It’s a fellowship, it’s a reunion for us in its purest form.’’