One mystery remains after the CAA released its cumulative 2024 football schedule. Hampton's opponent in the budding Brick City Classic at Harrison, NJ's Red Bull Arena is unannounced. Although it is only February, it is crunch time for the Pirates to find an opponent in their newfangled showcase game. Luckily, while options are slim, the remaining choices have plenty of intrigue. Each school listed below has openings in the first week of the season and makes sense as Brick City Classic guests for various reasons.
The first option is the least likely but arguably the most fascinating. As one of the only HBCUs in the Northeast, Linconln could potentially bring a strong travel contingent to Harrison, NJ. Lincoln's Philadelphia campus is only two hours away from Harrison.
Additionally, this would be one of the biggest games in the Lions' program history since reviving their program in 2009. Lincoln and Hampton's rich history against one another also adds flair to this game. The Lions and Pirates' rivalry dates back to 1909 and features 47 meetings, yet lays dormant since 1960.
These two programs have shared the field at some of the most revered cathedrals in American sports. Yankee Stadium, the Baker Bowl, and the Polo Grounds have all hosted Lincoln-Hampton games.*** A reunion between the two would easily create an engaging atmosphere for fans, something last year's Brick City Classic lacked with its attendance of just under 8000.
The drawback of inviting Lincoln is their inability to compete. The Lions have had zero winning seasons since resurrecting their program in 2009. Last year, the Lions struggled to a 4-6 record. The odds of Hampton and Lincoln being a close game are slim, which would hurt the atmosphere of the classic. Despite this, Lincoln is worthy of an invite to the Brick City thanks to its history and proximity.
Big-ticket HBCU Classics like the MEAC-SWAC Challenge and Circle City Classic have avoided Delaware State like the plague. The Hornets' last appearance in a neutral site HBCU Classic was a 2010 cup of coffee in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge, their only appearance in the game. The Brick City Classic allows Delaware State fans to experience the pomp and circumstance of an HBCU Classic without traveling far. Like Lincoln, Delaware State's campus is near Red Bull Arena, three hours away.
Like Lincoln, competitiveness is a concern. Delaware State's lone win last season came against a non-NCAA school, Virginia-Lynchburg. The Hornets lost 38-6 to Richmond, a CAA school that Hampton beat 31-14. However, the reunion of former MEAC mates makes this pairing attractive. After playing several schools with few similarities to them in the CAA, playing a former conference mate in Delaware State should engage the fans significantly.
Any Black College Football aficionado knows Morgan State's illustrious history in the Big Apple. The Bears' titanic clashes with Grambling at Yankee Stadium are still the subject of lore. Even long after the clashes with Grambling at Yankee Stadium stopped, the Bears played multiple games at Giants Stadium and Metlife Stadium.
Morgan State is an emerging program in the MEAC. The Bears defeated FCS Playoff participant Richmond and came inches from beating FCS semifinalist Albany in regulation before falling in overtime. Like Delaware State, the prestigious HBCU classics have eluded the Bears. Morgan State holds the dubious distinction of being one of two schools in the MEAC or SWAC to have never appeared in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.
The Bears draw well in the New York City metro. Their 2015 appearance in the Urban League Classic against Howard drew 28,712 fans. Morgan State could sell most of whatever ticket allotment given to them at the 25,000-seat Red Bull Arena.
Finally, Morgan State has the most television appeal out of the three schools mentioned. Last year, the NFL Network televised the inaugural Brick City Classic. While not a global television event, the game still drew respectable viewership, with an average of 109,000 fans and a .06 rating. The game had a higher average than the game that followed it on the NFL Network, Army-ULM (101,000 viewers).
Morgan State is in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. TV markets. Furthermore, the Bears would provide a more competitive game than Lincoln or Delaware State. Both factors are crucial to keeping the game televised on NFL Network.
Although not an ideal situation, Morgan State cannot go wrong with any of these opponents for the Brick City Classic. Inviting one of these three local schools could boost the attendance from last year’s disappointing total and inject new life into the game’s environment.
***Huge thanks to Mark Pollak’s book, “The Playing Grounds of College Football” and Hampton’s Football Record Book, which you can access here.