It’s do or die. It’s now or never. It’s win or go home.
Call it what you want, but this weekend’s match-up between FAMU and archrival Bethune-Cookman is now for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title.
As if the Florida Classic could get any bigger.
Saturday’s game for the title was set up by the Wildcat’s huge 46-27 win last week over Howard. A win for the Bison would have given them the conference crown. Instead, the Rattlers and the Wildcats will fight for it for the second time in three seasons. In 2000, these two teams battled for the title, with FAMU edging out B-CC 31-28.
Despite winning the last seven games, many FAMU players feel they have been disrespected by the Wildcats.
“They run their mouths like they’re the ones that’s been dominating the series,” receiver Charlie Allen said. “I guess that’s how they do things down in Daytona.”
Last year, during a luncheon for the two teams, B-CC coach Alvin Wyatt made several unfavorable comments about FAMU coach Billy Joe and the Rattler team, which some players are still taking offense to today.
“I don’t know where he was coming off saying what he said,” said tackle Fletcher Williams, who wouldn’t repeat what was said. “I guess he was trying to get his players fired up. He ended up getting us fired up.”
For the Wildcats, a win would give them their first MEAC title since 1988, and only their third title since the conference was formed in 1971. A loss for B-CC may still land it in the Division I-AA playoffs, but a postseason berth under those circumstances wouldn’t nearly be the same
The History of the Rivalry
These are just some of the most recent of a long list of storylines that have produced the biggest Black College Football game this side of the Bayou Classic. These two schools have been rivals long before the “Florida Classic” tag was attached to the game.
It began in 1925; the first of what will become annual meetings between the schools. FAMU convincingly won this inaugural meeting 25-0. The following year, the Wildcats avenged the previous year’s loss, pulling out a 12-0 shutout of their own. After skipping a few years, the teams renewed the game in 1929, which ended up in a 6-6 tie.
From there, it was all FAMU. The Rattlers would go on to win 24 out of the next 25 games, by scores such as 54-6 (1956), 68-6 (1959), 76-0 (1961) and 97-0 (1960).
FAMU and B-CC have been playing annually since 1950. The first “Classic” occurred in 1978 at Tampa Stadium. A dispute between the two schools over the game site, among other issues, caused the game to be suspended for two years (1983 and 1984). It also led to FAMU parting ways with the MEAC for a short period of time. But the disputes were eventually settled, and the game was restored.
The game remained in Tampa until 1997, then it was moved to its current location. Since moving to Orlando, the game has drawn an average of over 66,000 people per year. The Classic has also taken on partners in Walt Disney World and State Farm Insurance.
As the game grows, more people are optimistic that it will begin to draw national attention.
Hopes are that as early as next year the Classic will be aired on national television, most likely ESPN2, much like the Bayou Classic between Southern and Grambling State is aired on NBC.
The product is growing every year and so is the fan base.