First-year Tennessee State University head coach Eddie George was a guest on ESPN’s “First Take” last week as the show starring Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim Rose would broadcast live from Memphis Sept. 10.
George’s TSU squad will take on Deion Sander’s Jackson State Tigers in the Southern Heritage Classic on Sept. 11. George said he has a vision of HBCU football growing into a commodity that attracts national TV audiences and huge crowds.
“(I’m) talking about (former Grambling head coach and college football Hall of Fame member) Eddie Robinson and some of the great coaches in HBCU history and 70,000 fans being in the stands,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to highlight the programs and highlight the universities and what they’re known for.”
George believes that “Classic” games pitting HBCU football teams in American cities are key to future success.
St. Louis should not wait until the fourth quarter to attract one of these games. It has not been that long since the Gateway Classic was part of the local football schedule.
The late Earl Wilson and his Gateway Classic Foundation were instrumental in presenting the game. More than 20 were held, with early contests at Busch Stadium. The Classic then moved to the Edward Jones Dome.
Now called the Dome at America’s Center, it still has the football field and hosted the 2019 St. Louis Heritage Classic between Kentucky State University and Lincoln University.
The venue’s size remains a problem.
If George’s vision comes to fruition, it would not be impossible to draw 60,000. That day isn’t here yet.
The 22,500 seat St. Louis City Stadium, which will be home to the MLS expansion franchise beginning in 2023, is taking shape in the Downtown West neighborhood near Union Station.
But its design is soccer specific. However, when it comes to sports and the revenue major events can bring to downtown St. Louis, one should never say never.
Attracting a Jackson State, Grambling, Tennessee State or other national, high-profile HBCU program is going to take money. It is just a fact.
Corporate St. Louis and the St. Louis Sports Commission would have to find the dollars needed to pull this off. ESPN or a regional television network (Bally’s) would probably have to be involved.
This type of event has most likely surpassed what a not-for-profit organization like Wilson’s Gateway Classic uniquely crafted for decades.
There is a new revenue generator that could put money directly into the hands of HBCU players who come to St. Louis to participate in a contest.
College athletes can now be paid for use of their respective, Name in Likeness (NIL), and this certainly includes HBCU players.
247 Sports recruiting analyst Chris Hummer recently told HBCUSports.com, “I see no reason why local restaurants local barbershops local bars, wouldn’t want to work with athletes that have some level of grassroots sway within their community.”
The new NIL regulations became part of the NCAA bylaws on July 1. At midnight, Jackson State defensive end Antwan Owens became the nation’s first athlete to sign an NIL deal. He will earn $5,000 to endorse Three Kings Grooming, a black-owned hair product shop. Four of his teammates are also signing deals with the shop.
St. Louis companies, including Black owned ones, could help structure a deal to not only pay schools, but the players who come to St. Louis.
There is newfound interest in Black collegiate sports. St. Louis should be a leader, not a follower in creating a lucrative partnership.
The Reid Roundup
The Dallas Cowboys are among the NFL teams that failed to reach an 85% player vaccination rate. Michael Irvin is infuriated. “[N]ot being one of the [85 percent vaccinated teams] says there’s other things to a great number of people on this team that are more important than winning championships, and that makes me worried.”...Bradley Beal will miss the Tokyo Olympics because of COVID-19 protocols. It is unclear if Beal contracted the virus or if he has been vaccinated. Why he hasn’t said what the deal is, is beyond me…Lewis Hamilton was penalized for an incident that drove rival Max Verstappen into a tire barrier shortly after the start of the July 18 English Grand Prix. He was given a 10-second pit stop penalty but rallied to take the lead with three laps remaining and captured the checkered flag.