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Florida Classic Needs A New Sponsor
Orlando will play host to two annual historically black college football games this upcoming season, though its staple event is in need of a new sponsor.
Already home to the annual Florida Classic between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman University each November, Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl will also host the fourth-year MEAC/SWAC Challenge on Aug. 31, ESPN announced Monday.
However, in joining its sister-company ESPN in announcing the game’s move to Orlando, Walt Disney World also declared Wednesday that it is ending support of Orlando’s annual Florida Classic game between Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University.
Disney has sponsored the Florida Classic for 10 years, contributing a total of $2.7 million. In recent years the game’s full name even was changed to the Walt Disney World Florida Classic.
Disney World spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez said the company was proud of its relationship with the Florida Classic, but decided to “bring our sponsorship to a close.”
“We will work closely with Florida Citrus Sports to find additional sponsors for the classic,” she said.
While the two moves announced together might suggest that Disney now intends to put its money behind the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, the company is not saying so yet.
“We haven’t announced any involvement at this time,” Suarez said.
The new MEAC/SWAC Challenge set for a 2 p.m. Sunday kickoff has been played for the past three years at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. The game is played annually at a neutral site located within the footprint of one of the two conferences.
Though he wouldn’t comment on the end of Disney’s relationship with the Florida Classic or a possible new sponsor, Florida Citrus Sports Executive Director Steve Hogan did say that he thinks the desire to have a game around the Labor Day holiday could have played a role in the new game coming Orlando.
“We still have a great relationship with our bowl games,” Hogan said. “I think it’s probably something [ESPN] looked at extensively. It’s been played in Birmingham and just feel that the renovated stadium is something they talked about and what impact that would have on Labor Day and for past few months.
“Either way, I’m excited that ESPN is bringing a new product to our market.”
The inaugural MEAC/SWAC Challenge in 2005 showcased the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference’s South Carolina State and. Alabama State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, with South Carolina State prevailing, 27-14.
In 2006, the contest went into overtime with the MEAC’s Hampton University defeating the SWAC’s Grambling State, 27-26. Last year, the SWAC earned its first MEAC/SWAC Challenge trophy as Southern defeated Florida A&M, 33-27.
The 2008 match up will be announced on a later date.
Orlando to host 2 black college football games, but Florida Classic needs new sponsor
Kyle Hightower | Sentinel Staff Writer