Florida Classic

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This article is about the annual college football game. For the annual college hockey tournament, see Florida College Hockey Classic.
Florida Classic
Florida Blue Florida Classic
Stadium Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium
Location Orlando, Florida
Operated 1978 - present
Conference tie-ins Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

The Florida Blue Florida Classic is the annual college football game between the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman University and the Rattlers of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

The game is televised nationally by ESPNU as a part of a multi-year contract with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).For the last two games the game has been televised by ESPN Classic.


The Game is held at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando. Previous games were at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL and Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL until the two schools agreed on a permanent site in Tampa, Florida, in 1978.

Annual attendance[edit]

The Florida Classic has now drawn in excess of 1.4 million fans since 1978. Since 1997, a total of 689,592 fans have watched the Florida Classic in the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, an average of 68,708 per year. By comparison, the total attendance for the 17 years prior to Orlando was 765,529, an average of only 45,031. Between Orlando and Tampa, the Classic has drawn 1,383,905 fans. The record for attendance at the game is 73,358, set in Orlando in 2003. The announced attendance in 2008 was 60,712[1]


College Comparison
Ownership Bethune-Cookman University State University System of Florida
Location Daytona Beach, FL Tallahassee, FL
Conference Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Students 3,400 12,000
School Colors                    
Nickname Wildcats Rattlers
Mascot(s) Dr. Wyle D. Cat Venom
Football Stadium Municipal Stadium Bragg Memorial Stadium

Florida A&M won the first Florida Classic game in 1978, 27-17, overcoming a 17-0 halftime deficit. The team went on to win the inaugural NCAA Division I-AA championship. Bethune-Cookman made the series competitive starting in 1973, winning 11 of their 14 series victories during that span, including a 58-52 overtime win in 2004, which was the first-ever three-peat for the ‘Cats in the overall series, which dates back to the 1920s. Florida A&M holds an 18-10 edge in the meetings since the instate rivalry moved from a home-and-home scenario to an annual neutral site game in Tampa Stadium in 1978.

The two schools went through a two-year hiatus in 1983 and 1984, when they could not agree on a playing site, but public pressure from alumni, fans and state officials brought them back to the negotiating table and they resumed the series in 1985. Bethune-Cookman won the rivalry renewal game, 31-27 in 1985.

The 1997-2007 games saw the Florida Classic revived to the point that it overshadowed the drawing power of the Bayou Classic in New Orleans, between Grambling and Southern University in terms of attendance. In 1998, 66,245 packed the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium for the game which determined the 1998 MEAC Championship and postseason invitations. In 1999, the game drew 70,125 fans to Orlando, the sixth-largest football event ever held in the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. The 2000 MEAC title game, which drew 70,719, for a 31-28 thriller won by the Rattlers. The 2003 game stands as the largest crowd ever in the series - 73,358.

In 2005, the game made its debut on ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network, as a part of a commitment to broadcasting HBCU games.

Game results[edit]

FAMU owns the series record 21-14 since 1978.

Bethune-Cookman victories shaded in ██ maroon. Florida A&M victories are shaded in ██ orange.

Other activities[edit]

Halftime Show and Battle of the Bands[edit]

The 14 Karat Gold Dancers of the BCU Marching Wildcats during halftime at the Florida Classic.
The FAMU Marching 100 during halftime at the Florida Classic.

Marching bands from both universities compete during the Florida Classic halftime show and at various events during the weekend.

In a 2006 article, Orlando Weekly Magazine said, "at most college football games, halftime is for beer runs and bathroom breaks. At the (Florida Classic), halftime is the reason to go."

Over the years fans have agreed with these types descriptions of the game's halftime show. They also point out that areas under the stadium clear out as fans go to their seats or stand on walkways located at the stadium's end zones because they provide unrestricted views of the football field and the halftime show.

Prior to the MEAC's contract with ESPN to broadcast the game, the two bands enjoyed almost unlimited time to perform their last, longest and undoubtedly best show of the year. In fact, in the 2002 Florida Classic halftime, both bands performed shows that were almost 45 minutes long, nearly tripling the halftime's allotment of only 30 minutes based on NCAA rules.

The rivalry between the two programs is also evident in phrases used by the bands' announcers. Although good friends, Horatio "In Stereo" Walker of Bethune-Cookman's Marching Wildcats and radio jockey Joe Bullard of FAMU's Marching "100," don't express any kind words for the opponent band as they narrate their marching band's respective shows.

The marching bands' appeal is also used to attract fans to other events during the Florida Classic weekend. On Fridays, both bands perform after high school bands during the annual Florida Blue Battle of the Bands at Amway Center. Prior to 2007 while Walt Disney World was still a sponsor, both bands performed annually at a parade at one of the Walt Disney World parks.

Hazing death[edit]

In 2011, the game and weekend activities were marred by the hazing death of Florida A&M Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion.[3] A subsequent criminal investigation uncovered a culture of hazing[4] and led to the resignation of two faculty members and 13 persons charged with felony or misdemeanor hazing crimes.[3][5][6]

Florida A&M University stopped all band performances amid the investigation, and the 2012 game and surrounding events were largely muted. The Marching 100 did not participate in halftime ceremonies, and the game attracted only a half-full stadium.[7] The band returned to the game in 2013.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ESPN.com". 
  2. ^ Romero, Iliana Limón (23 November 2013). "Bethune-Cookman tops FAMU 29-10 in Florida Classic". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Death of Florida A&M's Robert Champion ruled a homicide". BBC News. December 17, 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  4. ^ Olorunnipa, Toluse (3 December 2011). "Death at Florida university exposes ugly secret". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "13 Charged in Hazing Death". FOX News / Associated Press. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Expert: Autopsy of Florida A&M drum major shows badly beaten muscles". CNN. 22 December 2011. 
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ Ordway, Denise-Marie (23 November 2013). "FAMU band returns to Florida Classic today". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 

External links[edit]