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FAMU, B-CC Strike Back at Disney
Both schools say they won’t play any other team in Orlando - which precludes the Wildcats from playing in the MEAC/SWAC challenge August 31, the game Disney has decided to sponsor in Orlando instead of the Florida Classic.
ORLANDO — One mouse won’t stop the largest black-college football game in the country from getting its cheese.
That is the message the presidents at Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman sent Friday, a day after learning that Disney had pulled out of its title sponsorship deal with the annual Florida Classic.
“We are looking forward to the Classic staying in Orlando and being bigger than ever,” Florida A&M President James Ammons and Bethune-Cookman President Truide Kibbe Reed said in a joint statement Friday.
Ammons, Reed and other officials from both schools met with officials from Florida Citrus Sports, which manages the Florida Classic, and the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Friday to discuss plans for the Classic.
The two schools also vowed not to play any other teams in Orlando — a move that eliminates both programs as candidates for the MEAC-SWAC Challenge that Disney may choose to sponsor instead of the Florida Classic. Bethune-Cookman was expected to play Jackson State in the 2008 MEAC-SWAC Challenge; FAMU played Southern in Birmingham, Ala., in the same game to kick off the 2007 season.
Disney had been a sponsor of the Florida Classic between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman — a game that draws more than 60,000 fans annually and is considered the largest between two historically black universities. The title sponsorship meant Disney had given an average of $270,000 annually.
Disney’s withdrawal leaves State Farm as the biggest corporate sponsor of the Classic. Steve Hogan, Executive Director of Florida Citrus Sports, and Florida Citrus Sports Director Joey Walters said companies have already inquired about taking Disney’s place as a title sponsor.
“Upon hearing that Walt Disney was pulling out as the title sponsor to the Classic, our office has received numerous calls from major fortune 500 companies eager to discuss the vacant title sponsorship,” Hogan said. “The Florida Classic is a powerful brand with passionate fans ready to support companies associated with the event. We believe the Classic will enjoy a new partner ready to move with the universities to the next level of excellence.”
Disney’s move comes just three days after ESPN announced the MEAC-SWAC game, which it created, will be played in Orlando after drawing luke-warm attendance in Birmingham, Ala.
Disney, which owns ESPN, has yet to announce any sponsorship deal concerning the MEAC-SWAC game that will be played at the Citrus Bowl Aug. 31,
“While Walt Disney has decided to discontinue their relationship with the Classic as title sponsor, we hope that neither Walt Disney or any other organization would not encroach on the Florida Classic brand by bringing other HBCU teams into Orlando to replicate or to engage in activities that would diminish the Florida Classic,” Ammons and Reed said in their joint statement.
FAMU, B-CC Strike Back at Disney
By Heath A. Smith • DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER