Chicago Football Classic: 5 things to know about the annual HBCU tradition

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Clark Atlanta University’s Trevion Webb (11) makes the catch behind Central State’s E’Donovan Stewart (19) in their 20-13 win in the 19th Annual Chicago Football Classic at Soldier Field Saturday September 10, 2016. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

The 21st annual Chicago Football Classic will take place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when Morehouse College takes on Miles College at Soldier Field. The event is often attended by alumni of the schools playing, along with college-bound students.

Who started the Chicago Football Classic?

Three businessmen — Larry Huggins, and twins Everett and Tim Rand— co-founded the Chicago Football Classic toencourage black youth “to achieve their personal best in school and beyond.” The CFC encourages students to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The first game in 1997 featured Southern University and Mississippi Valley State University.

Who usually plays in the game?

Two HBCUs. Jackson State University, Hampton University, Howard University and Central State University have participated in past games.Morehouse, in Atlanta, is making its third appearance in the Classic. Miles, in Fairfield, Alabama, is making its first appearance.

What other festivities take place this weekend?

Festivities surrounding the annual game include a golf outing, a pep rally attended by representatives and local alumni of each university, an HBCU college fair and a “Battle of the Bands” featuring Chicago area high school marching bands.

How does Chicago support the event?

Students from Chicago area high schools are often encouraged to attend the Classic and the events. The Cubs host an annual “HBCU Day” promotion day each year. This year’s day was Sunday and the Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds. HBCU Day was co-hosted by Cubs Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green, who attended Alabama A&M, andAld. Michael Scott Jr. (24th), an alumnus of Morehouse College.

Chicago connections to HBCUs

Many Chicagoans claim HBCUs as their alma maters. Rapper-actor Common attended Florida A&M University. Former talk show host Oprah Winfrey attended Tennessee State University. Rainbow Push founder the Rev. Jesse Jackson attended North Carolina A&T. Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris attended Howard University. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and filmmaker Spike Lee, who directed the film “Chiraq,” are alumni of Morehouse. Chicago Bears greats Walter Payton (Jackson State) and Super Bowl XX MVP Richard Dent (Tennessee State) also attended HBCUs.

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