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Chicago Football Classic promises to Promote more than Football

Evan F. Moore | 9/2/2015, 12:04 p.m.
Believe it or not, the 18th annual Chicago Football Classic (CFC) is more about getting kids interested in attending college, ...
L-R Chicago Football Classic co-founder Larry Huggins; Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle; Chicago Football Classic co-founder Everett Rand; Shelley Davis, Interim Athletic Director, Howard University and Floyd Kerr, Athletic Director, Morgan State University. Photo by Evan F. Moore

Believe it or not, the 18th annual Chicago Football Classic (CFC) is more about getting kids interested in attending college, than it is about the battle on the gridiron. And according to CFC co-founder Larry Huggins, the event is designed to show youth that after high school, there’s an entire world out there where they can do a lot of good, and be very successful.

“When you talk about our kids, you talk about stop the violence. You have to make sure our kids are not only educated, you have to make sure they go for higher education,” Huggins says. “We do this game because we want to expose our kids to HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and life at these colleges. This is a way to keep HBCU’s alive.”

On September 26, the Howard University Bison will take on the Morgan State Bears, the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champions, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Howard is located in Washington, D.C., and Morgan State is located in Baltimore, Md., separated by only 47 miles. The annual game between the two is usually dubbed the “Beltway Battle. “

On Monday morning, a press conference was held in front of Gate 0 at Soldier Field.

Various dignitaries from across the city came out to the Chicago Football Classic press conference.

Various dignitaries from across the city came out to the Chicago Football Classic press conference.

The athletic directors of both universities, Floyd Kerr for Morgan State, and Shelley Davis for Howard, attended the festivities. Other dignitaries that attended included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (Dist.-1st), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) among others.

Preckwinkle believes that tournaments like the CFC can change the narrative for many young people in Chicago.

“Particularly, for men of color, the image they get in the media is mostly negative,” Preckwinkle says. “It’s about violence, it’s about gangs, it’s about a disproportional amount of young men interacting with the police, and it’s not young people who are going to college.”

During the press conference, Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was honored by the CFC for “the commitment that he and the Chicago Cubs organization have demonstrated in support of post-secondary educations for youth,” according to Rand. Ricketts spoke about how the Cubs aren’t only a North Side team, but a team for the entire city.

“We wanted to do something for our entire city. I had to the privilege of meeting Larry [Huggins] and Tim [Rand] we’ve been very large supporters,” Ricketts said.

Twenty fourth ward Alderman Michael Scott Jr., the son of former Chicago School Board President Michael Scott, graduated from Morehouse College in 1998. He says he understands how important it is to expose young people to life outside their usual surroundings.

“My father was instrumental in linking CPS and the classic together. Coming to events like this has been a rite of passage for me,” Scott says. “This comes full circle for me since there are so many West Side individuals who might not know about the game and the opportunities HBCU’s can provide.”

Danielle James, president of the Howard alumni club, echoes the alderman’s sentiments about using the game as an opportunity to expose Chicago kids to college. She says that her and her fellow Howard alums are making sure they sell as many tickets as they can.

“This promotes historically black colleges as well as Howard University. For alumni, this is a great reason to come out to network and meet possible college students in Chicago,” James says. “They can see the love we have for our school.”

Rand says the game is only one of the tools he uses to provide community service for those who have helped him during his career.

“We have been blessed as business people. This is one way to give back.”

Tickets for the game range from $17 to $45. For more information, log on to http://chicagofootballclassic.biz/.