Bryant inks three-year deal to keep Classic in Orlando

ORLANDO – Representing a newly formed consortium, Florida A&M University Interim President Castell V. Bryant and Bethune-Cookman College President Trudie Kibbe Reed announced Thursday that the college football game between their two schools will continue to call Central Florida home for the next three years.

Part of this renewal is a new direction that builds upon the game’s established presence in Orlando, designed to make the Florida Classic “better than ever.” The 2006 Florida Classic, to be played Saturday, Nov. 18, will mark the game’s 10th consecutive year in Orlando.

“We’re so excited about the opportunity to let you know that the Florida Classic will be played in Orlando in ’06, ’07 and ’08 with renewal options. We are absolutely delighted that we have finally reached that position,” Bryant said.

“We celebrate the fact that we’ve been here in Orlando since 1997, and we will continue for another three years, because we’ve received the kind of support from Florida Citrus Sports as well as from both mayors and all of the commissioners to lay out the framework for another successful event,” Reed added.

The presidents were joined at the announcement by the two local mayors, Buddy Dyer of the City of Orlando and Richard T. Crotty of Orange County.

The Florida Classic Consortium, made up of a delegation from each school that includes the Presidents, Alumni Association Presidents, Athletics Directors and select administrative officials, was created to oversee the game and all of its affiliated events.

The presidents also announced that Florida Citrus Sports would continue to handle game operations and take on an expanded role with other events.

The new strategy for the Classic features a reduced number of official ancillary events as well as protection of the game’s brand.

The Consortium will now focus on strengthening official events and providing a level of quality entertainment that Florida Classic fans deserve.

“This new direction is going to help us grow our athletic departments back on campus, because that’s what we’re all about: our students,” Bryant said.

In addition, the Consortium asked for help from supporters in recognizing the difference between official Florida Classic events and unofficial events that may indicate a connection with the Florida Classic.

Official events benefit the two institutions, while unofficial events using the game’s name, timing, draw of participation or other implied affiliation benefit only those individuals and groups that promote them.

“We’re asking for support in this partnership to look for the official trademark that says the Florida Classic with the theme this year, ‘Better Than Ever,'” Reed said.

Since 1997, more than 600,000 fans have come to Central Florida for the game between the MEAC schools, making it the largest HBCU football game in the nation.

The fans come for much more than football as each year features a halftime showdown between two world-famous bands – Bethune-Cookman’s Marching Wildcats and the Marching 100 of Florida A&M.

This year’s game is the 27th neutral-site meeting between the Wildcats and the Rattlers.

FAMU, the designated home team for 2006, leads the series 17-9. The Rattlers are 6-3 since the move to Orlando, but its 26-23 overtime win in 2005 broke a streak of three consecutive wins for B-CC.