After 43 years, the Orange Blossom Classic (OBC) will return to South Florida on Labor Day Weekend. The resurgence of the postseason clash between two Historically Black Colleges will feature Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Jackson State University (JSU).
The goal of the Classic is to raise awareness of HBCUs in Florida as well as enhance the scholarship funds of the Universities that participate in the future.
“I cannot wait for this event because it’s not just a game, it’s a celebration,” said Jackson State University football head coach and NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. “It’s an opportunity for us to put our players on stage.”
The Orange Blossom Classic was founded in 1933 and became an annual event in 1947. Black people were allowed to sit in the main stands of the historic Orange Bowl Stadium for the first time during the Orange Blossom Classic. The postseason game evolved to become known as the Black Football National Championship.
FAMU was an opponent in every OBC until the event ended in 1978.
“We all understand how important this game is to South Florida and to Florida A&M,” said FAMU football head coach Willie Simmons. “This has been a staple in our historic legacy for over 80 years.”
The classic will be FAMU’s first game in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), they previously competed on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The last time the two schools battled on the gridiron was in 2018; JSU defeated FAMU 18-16.
According to Orange Blossom Classic executive director Kendra N. Bulluck-Major, discussions of bringing back the historic event started 10 years ago. It was scheduled to return in 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with the football game, there will be events around the time of the game, including a Battle of the Bands between the JSU “Sonic Boom of the South” and the FAMU “Marching 100” marching bands.
The Classic is also spearheading community initiatives including Business Unite, an initiative that looks for various minority-owned businesses to help put on the OBC. Graduating high school seniors of the South Florida area with a minimum GPA of 2.5 who have been accepted into an HBCU will be rewarded with a $1,500 scholarship by the Orange Blossom Football Classic Association Inc.
Sanders, also known as “Coach Prime” has been at the helm of the Jackson State Tigers since September 2020. With their 2020 season pushed to the Spring, the Tigers had a 4-3 overall record.
Simmons was named the head coach of the FAMU Rattlers in 2017. The football team did not compete this spring.
Sanders recently criticized NFL teams as no HBCU players were drafted this year. On April 9, an HBCU combine was held at the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff for CFL, NFL, and XFL scouts.
“That doesn’t make sense to have a separate combine,” Sanders said. “I was just trying to get us in, but now that I’m involved and I’m in it, we don’t want separate, we want together.”