The Southern-Grambling matchup in the Bayou Classic appears safe for the foreseeable future.
Southern Athletic Director William Broussard said Thursday that no one from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has approached him about changing the Jaguars’ opponent in the traditional season-ending game in the Dome.
Broussard also said he has not spoken with Grambling Athletic Director Aaron James or any other Tigers representatives about any fundamental changes to the 40-year-old Bayou Classic. He called a report by WWL-TV that operators of the Superdome have discussed the possibility of replacing Grambling in the event “irresponsible.”
The report was based on comments from Robert Bruno, the commissioner of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which operates the Superdome, site of the centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving weekend event.
On Thursday, the Monroe News-Star quoted a statement from the general manager of the Superdome, calling the rivalry “one of the great traditions in college football.”
“The LSED and SMG (which manages the Superdome) are proud to be part of that history, and we want the Bayou Classic to prosper,” Alan Freeman said in the statement. “We continue to support the iconic game, and the efforts to make it into an even bigger event for New Orleans.”
Though Freeman’s quote didn’t specifically address Grambling’s involvement, Broussard said contracts with the Superdome, NBC, which televises the Bayou Classic, and the marketing firm that operates the event all specify that Southern and Grambling play in the game. The longest contract is with the marketing firm, iL Stratega, which has three more years to run.
“I’m someone who has never considered anything other than Southern and Grambling playing the game as the season ender,” Broussard said, “But I would assume (the contracts lock in both schools for three more years).”
Bruno cited lagging attendance in recent seasons as reason for considering a possible change.
The Jaguars traditionally bring more fans than the Tigers.
“If Grambling has fallen off that bad, maybe Southern could take the lead and it could be an earned-in game and bring in somebody else,” Bruno said. “I just don’t know if Grambling can carry the load.”
Southern won last year’s meeting 40-17 on its way to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship. That game drew 47,385 for an event that averaged more than 70,000 fans from 2000-04.
The Tigers, 2-21, the last two seasons, changed coaches twice last season and forfeited their game at Jackson State because of a players boycott.
In the wake of last year’s Bayou Classic, Tony Clayton, a member of Southern’s Board of Supervisors, said he sent an email to Southern board members raising the possibility of removing Grambling from future Bayou Classics.
On Thursday the News-Star quoted a statement from outgoing Grambling President Frank Pogue.
“There is no discussion to change this historic matchup, and there are no plans to change this annual challenge in any way,” Pogue said.