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42nd Annual Bayou Classic set to kick off November 28

23rd November 2015   ·   0 Comments

Mark Alexander is what some might call a die-hard fan of the Southern University Jaguars.

Even though the New Orleans native matriculated at the University of Houston as an undergrad and earned a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee, his roots in the Jaguar Nation run deep.

Three of Alexander’s brothers and his older sister all earned degrees from Southern University and spent their Saturday nights on Scot’s Bluff rooting for the Jags and grooving to the “Human Jukebox.” For the past 10 years, Mark has made the drive to Baton Rouge religiously to attend SU home football games. And whenever he gets a chance to do so, he makes the trek to places like Jackson, Miss. and Prairie View, Texas to watch the Jags take on SWAC foes like Jackson State University and Prairie View A&M University.Bayou-Classic-photo-112315

But none of that compares to the energy and excitement of watching the Jags battle SWAC West foe Grambling every Saturday after Thanksgiving in the Crescent City during the Bayou Classic.

Alexander hasn’t missed a Bayou Classic in 25 years — not even the one played in 2005 in Houston after Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans — and has the ticket stubs to prove it.

“I started out going to the game because of my sister and brothers but then it kind of took on a whole new meaning for me,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “It’s become a family reunion of sorts, one of the biggest annual family reunions in Black America. A chance for sports fans, alumni and supporters of HBCUs to come together in the name of networking, camaraderie and fellowship.

“It’s become a part of me and something that I look forward to every year,” he added.

The year 2015 marks the 42nd annual meeting of HBCU and Southwestern Athletic Conference rivals Southern University and Grambling State University. As has been said often, the Bayou Classic is so much more than a football game. The Bayou Classic commemorates historically Black colleges and universities, academic achievement, tradition, sportsmanship, marching bands, and friendly competition. The “Classic” is an exhibition of the high standards of academic achievement deeply embedded in the traditions of the two institutions.

Since 1991, the Bayou Classic has been televised nationally by NBC. The national broadcast attracts an audience of four to five million viewers.

The Bayou Classic draws more than 250,000 visitors to New Orleans. At a time when tourism is relatively slow, the Bayou Classic represents a major boost to the Crescent City’s economy and generates funds for scholarships and academic programs at both schools.

Grambling State University and Southern University are public, four-year institutions of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Both are recognized for their academics and athletics, and their rivalry is on display each year during the Bayou Classic. Grambling State University is located in Grambling, Louisiana, and Southern University is located in Baton Rouge.

While the football game is the centerpiece of the Bayou Classic weekend, there is a wide assortment of activities associated with the event, including a pageant, career and college fair, Fan Fest, alumni parties, a coaches’ luncheon and Sunday gospel brunch.

The Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade will take place in the afternoon, originating at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 3:30 p.m. and ending at the French Market. Other events include the Bayou Classic Step Show and Battle of the Bands on Friday, Nov. 27, at 7:00 p.m. in the Superdome and the Bayou Classic football game on Saturday, Nov. 28, at 1:30 p.m. in the Superdome.

After a few rocky seasons, GSU’s G-Men are rolling and expected by many in the media to best the Jags this weekend in the Superdome.

“We’d had some rough times but all of that goes out of the window when we play Southern,” Leslie Simmons, a Grambling alum, told The Louisiana Weekly. “This is the one game where no one can predict who will win. As soon as the game starts, the records go out the window and the old-fashioned, knock-down and drag-out cat fight begins.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she added.

Mark Alexander said that some other SWAC schools and HBCUs have tried to mimic the magic and electricity of the Bayou Classic with mixed results.

The closest experience to the Bayou Classic in recent years has been the SU-Jackson State University matchup. He said during last year’s game in Jackson, Miss., the schools dueled in a “battle of the bands” with SU’s Human Jukebox coming out on top, in his unbiased opinion. While he says he was admittedly impressed with JSU’s marching band, the SU band members stole the show when they feigned drowsiness and disinterest while Jackson State’s band was playing.

“It was hilarious,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “They were lying all over the seats like they were sleep-deprived or drunk. The crowd, which was mostly SU fans, ate it up.”

To hold him over until Bayou Classic weekend, Alexander has been watching videos of the Human Jukebox on Youtube as he counts down the days until the Jags and G-Men clash once again in the Big Easy.

While he knows the game is going to be hotly contested, he has no doubt which school’s band will come out ahead during halftime performances and the “5th Quarter,” the post-game contest between the two marching bands.

“Grambling has been getting better in recent years, but the Jags ain’t gonna let nobody come into their house and make them look bad,” he said with confidence. “It’s gonna be a wipeout.”

This article originally published in the November 23, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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