The Bayou Classic has one of the best-known single-game brands in college football, but its not a stretch to give a nickname.
How about the SWAC semifinal?
It seems to work out that way when Southern and Grambling hook up for their annual Louisiana family feud in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This year’s game, the 45th edition, kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday, capping a weekend of festivities that starts with the Falcons-Saints clash in the Dome on Thanksgiving night.
The winner gets more than bragging rights. It also gets a trip to face Alcorn State in the SWAC championship game in Lorman, Mississippi, as the West Division champion.
“It’s going to be fun, exciting,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said at Monday's kickoff news conference attended by local and state dignitaries, including Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Every time you come out of the tunnel you feel the chills. Being here is something you write about and tell your family about many years to come. There is no other Classic in the U.S. like the Bayou Classic.”
Grambling (6-4, 4-2) has had the better of it in recent years, with three consecutive victories to take a 23-21 lead in the series. But the Jaguars (7-3, 5-1) are riding a four-game win streak and had a three-game streak of their own in the series before the Tigers’.
“The Bayou Classic is something we call our own,” Odums said. “Probably five of the last six years, it’s been down to the wire to which team is going to represent the West in the SWAC championship game. With that being on the line, it creates a great environment, great atmosphere for New Orleans and Louisiana, and two great institutions. There’s no better game to watch in the state."
Grambling started slow this season but is on a three-game win streak.
“Since I’ve been here, this game has decided who goes,” said fifth-year Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs, who is 45-15 overall and 3-1 vs. Southern. “It’s very difficult to remember a time when it hasn’t come down to this game.”
Odums and Fobbs like the idea of the conference championship being set at a league member’s home field this season. Three weeks ago, the SWAC moved the game from Birmingham’s Legion Field because of a scheduling conflict. The game is set for East Division leader Alcorn State’s Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 1 because the Braves finished with the league’s best record.
SWAC officials opted to move rather than try and share the field with Alabama-Birmingham, which will host the Conference USA championship game the same day as the SWAC title game was scheduled.
“As head coaches that’s what we agreed to,” Odums said. “We said it should be played at (the previous year's champion) so a year out you at least know where it’s going to be played. Naming it this late creates some problems, but at least we know where its going to be at and they’ve got two weeks to prepare with it being in Lorman. We think it’s a better venue, greater crowds and a greater atmosphere than playing in some of these big domes.”
The game had been played the past five seasons in Houston’s NRG Stadium after being moved from its original home at Legion Field (1999-2012).
“It’s good for the conference,” Fobbs said. “It allows us to keep the money in house. It allows us to do more for our universities. Also gives us what we need in those communities, gives us more leverage when it comes to building relationships with different businesses in the community.”
Tickets and parking passes for the SWAC championship game are on sale, the league announced, and can be purchased online at www.impacttickets.com. For more information, call 601-877-6818
Onyx is back
For the second year, ONYX Television is the digital content sponsor for the Bayou Classic, and the official live stream pay-per-view of the Greek Show and Battle of the Bands. The network is a Louisiana-based online digital company that provides original digital content. It is comprised of HBCU grads and includes a collaborative effort to connect television and film professionals with students in the field. The network hopes to add the Fan Fest and Bayou Classic parade to its lineup in the near future and has an on-going documentary series building up to the 50th Bayou Classic in 2023.
“I feel like I ought to be kicking a field goal right now,” said Edwards, a former place-kicker at Amite, in his address for the Bayou Classic Kickoff news conference. The dais on the floor of the Superdome was facing the goal post in the Poydras Street end zone.