Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, the city of New Orleans is packed with fans of the Southern University Jaguars and Grambling University Tigers from all over, and this year was no exception. Two amazing HBCUs compete for the championship inside of Caesar’s Superdome. In addition to the game, there were a plethora of events that led up to this highly anticipated matchup – here’s a look back at some of the highlights from a week filled with tradition and football.
Monday – Press Conference
Bayou Classic week began with a press conference held at the Superdome. Spectators got a chance to hear from both head coaches, both university presidents, New Orleans mayor Latoya Cantrell, a few of the sponsors and the director of facilities of the Superdome. According to attendee Mel Cordier, a public relations professional, the university presidents spoke on “student and alumni engagement on and off campus and what’s to come for the betterment of the universities.” Mayor Cantrell enlightened the room when she mentioned that New Orleans is one of the top ten growing cities since the COVID-19 pandemic. The sponsors discussed how they show their support with not just dollars but also by providing scholarships to students and supporting various university departments, such as the marching bands. The director of facilities mentioned that his staff has been working around the clock to have the Superdome ready before fans take their seats.
Friday – Battle of the Bands and Greek Show highlight busy schedule
Fast forward to Friday: The morning began with representatives from NBC Universal conducting a seminar to give students insight from NBCU Academy and NBC Sports leaders about careers in media and sports broadcasting. This enlightening event took place at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
At noon, there was a coaches’ luncheon where athletic staff from each university talked about the significance of this Bayou Classic.
On Friday afternoon, the Superdome opened its doors for the annual Battle of The Bands and Greek show. Seven National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternity and sorority chapters competed for a significant check that would go towards funding for the winning chapter. Each team took the stage and performed a stepping routine. Procter and Gamble, the lead sponsor for the last six years, presented the Alpha Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and the Delta Sigma chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha with the grand prize.
“It’s about creating the resources that young people need to go to school and have future opportunity to join the ranks of a Fortune 500 company,” said Damon Jones, Chief Communications Officer of Procter and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble is responsible for creating everyday household goods such as Crest Toothpaste and Tide Laundry Detergent, to name a few.
How does it feel to win the Greek show? “We had big shoes to fill being that past shows have been nothing but immaculate,” said Amariya Jackson, a member of Delta Sigma Theta. “Being able to show the ones that came before us that we are just as dedicated as them means everything.”
Right after the Greek Show was the Battle of the Bands. Southern University’s Human Jukebox went against the Grambling “World Famed” Tiger Marching Band. Zion Williams, a tenor drummer from Grambling University, described performing in the Battle of the Bands as a learning experience. “Bayou Classic is the battle of the best bands in Louisiana. The football game is the battle of a never-ending lifelong rivalry,” Williams said.
The bands performed various R&B and soul hits and the crowd loved hearing the instrumental versions of their favorite songs.
Saturday – Game Day
What is so significant about this Bayou Classic? It was the tiebreaker – headed into kickoff, the series was tied all-time 24-24. With a win, the Jaguars would be playing in the SWAC championship. This game had fans on the edges of their seats. Grambling University wide receiver Lyndon Rash scored the first touchdown on a four-yard pass from Julian Calvez. Southern freshman running back Karl Ligon ran it in two yards to score the Jaguar’s first touchdown. RB Kendric Rhymes made it 14-7 with a five-yard run into the endzone at the end of the second half.
By the 3rd quarter, after an amazing halftime show, Grambling led 17-14. That soon changed when Southern quarterback BeSean McCray kept it himself and ran it in 22 yards, putting Southern ahead 21-17.
Senior defensive back Kriston Davis intercepted the Grambling QB in the final minutes of the game and returned it 42 yards for the score, bringing the Jaguars to victory at 34-17.
After the game the SWAC Western Division trophy was presented to Jaguar’s coach Eric Dooley. The Jaguars officially hold the title of the SWAC West champions and will face SWAC East champions Jackson State for the conference title.
Southern running back Kendric Rhymes, who hails from Houston Texas, described playing in the Bayou Classic as different from any other game: “The whole city comes out and we put on a show.”
Impact of the Bayou Classic
A Classic football game is unlike normal bowl games because they include events such as the ones mentioned above. Tailgate parties, social events, and business expos all took place throughout the weekend.
This stadium was filled with die-hard fans of each team. There were people that have been attending the Bayou Classic each year for decades. Former Southern University student body president and Baton Rouge native Anthony Kenney spoke to the significance. “Bayou Classic is the epitome of HBCU pride and tradition in Louisiana,” Kenney said. “It has always been seen as a huge event, almost bigger than Thanksgiving itself. It’s a family rivalry but it is all about unity when it is said and done. I’m so glad I went to Southern U.”
After the Bayou Classic, no one is going straight home. Bourbon Street was filled with people enjoying themselves and hanging out. All of the after parties have the clubs packed! Celebrities even attend the nightlife festivities.
Author’s Note: Lealer Sims is a graduating senior from Southern University. She is an aspiring multimedia journalist, with an interest in entertainment reporting. She has worked at a television station and for different publications. You can keep up with her on all platforms @lealerimani. You can read some of her work at Southerndigest.com