June 30 event kicks off Livingstone-Johnson C. Smith rivalry game activities
The historical and intense football rivalry between Livingstone College and Johnson C. Smith University continues when Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy Jenkins hosts the Commemorative Classic Kick-Off on June 30 at 2:30 p.m. in the campus’ new Events & Hospitality Center at 701 W. Monroe St.
The event begins months of anticipation for the 117th meeting between Johnson C. Smith’s Golden Bulls and the Livingstone College Blue Bears Oct. 3 at Charlotte’s Memorial Stadium.
The game illuminates the historic legacy of Livingstone and Johnson C. Smith that gave rise to the American cultural phenomenon known as black college football. It began when these two teams ó Johnson C. Smith was then known as Biddle College ó organized and played the first black collegiate football game Dec. 27, 1892 at Livingstone.
The Classic pays tribute to former black college football players like Dr. W.J. Trent, a member of that first Blue Bears team who later served three decades as president of Livingstone. Then there’s Livingstone College’s quarterback Alfred “The Great” Tyler Jr. Tyler led the nation’s small colleges in passing in 1966, competing 174 of 338 attempts for 2,499 yards and 29 touchdowns.
The Classic weekend events begin Oct. 2 at Livingstone with a memorial tribute at the historic marker on Livingstone’s campus and a presentation from sportswriter and historian Michael Hurd, author of “Black College Football 1892-1992.”
The game was once a major rivalry event during the 1960s, played annually around Thanksgiving. In 1992, the centennial game attracted more than 8,000 fans who jammed into the football stadium at Livingstone. National press converged on that contest and now both schools have decided to play the game in Charlotte’s Memorial Stadium.
Both institutions currently compete in the Western Division of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In 2008, Livingstone won the historic rivalry 32-26 in the Irwin Belk Complex at Johnson C. Smith.
The two presidents decided to cast the game as the Commemorative Classic and create a reunion atmosphere for fans, former players, alumni and family that sets apart the first weekend in October as a football weekend destination in Charlotte
“We’re being imaginative about this classic,” Johnson C. Smith President Ron Carter said. “It’s very important for Salisbury and Charlotte to attract a diversity of races to the game and create the same excitement surrounding the CIAA Basketball tournament.”
Tickets for the game go on sale July 1 on the Classic’s Web site, www.commemorativeclassic.com
Jenkins, Livingstone’s president, begins this year’s rivalry with a bold prediction.
“This is the granddaddy of all the HBCU Classics, and it’s ironic they (Biddle) came to Salisbury for that first game and won, and we will win the first Commemorative Classic in Charlotte,” he said.
At the Kick-Off, head football coaches Steven Aycock of Johnson C. Smith and Lamonte Massie of Livingstone will speak about the historical significance of this game to their student athletes.
A historical display of archival football memorabilia from both schools will be presented.
Invited guests for the event include Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Mel Watt.