Can Chicago State Rejuvenate the Chicago Football Classic?

The struggling HBCU classic has not been able to find the right teams, but could the Cougars' new program give life to the classic?

Chicago State will launch a feasibility study to discover the possibility of starting football
Source: Chicago State University Twitter

September 14, 2019. Howard and Hampton brought their storied rivalry to the Windy City for the first time. Hopes were high that the storied rivalry between two name brands of Black College Football would bring a good draw for the Chicago Football Classic. However, only 19,425 fans showed up to Soldier Field that day. This is the last Chicago Football Classic to date.

While the Classic's website promotes a return on Labor Day Weekend of this season, hopes are bleak for Midwest classics like the Chicago Football Classic, especially after the Circle City Classic canceled their game in 2022 and the Detroit Football Classic has yet to recover from the pandemic after scheduling a return in 2020.

The Chicago Football Classic tried everything, They tried bringing name brands, but Grambling drew less than 17,000 in 2017, despite being the defending Celebration Bowl champs. They tried bringing schools that were underexposed to classics like West Virginia State and Mississippi Valley State, but that failed too.

The one thing they never had was a home team, and they may have that team soon. Yesterday, Chicago State announced the committee that will conduct its football feasibility study.

Yes, I am aware that Chicago State is not an HBCU, but it’s student base is predominantly Black. During the 2021-22 academic year, 76% of Chicago State’s students were African Americans. If Chicago State were to get a football team, HBCUs would provide the most interest for the student and local fanbase.

A root problem with the Chicago Football Classic’s attendance figures may have been the fact that the HBCUs they brought to play each year had small alumni bases in Chicago. Now, the Classic would not have to rely solely on tourists and local alumni, but would have a school based in the city.

Chicago State against a rotation of Tennessee State, Kentucky State, and Central State would make the most sense. The Classic can throw in an occasional appearance from a namebrand like Grambling or Florida A&M to create a “statement game” for a young Chicago State program.

Aside from fan interest, the Classic benefits immensely from needing to only pay for one school’s travel each year with Chicago State being the home team. The possibility of an increased payout could draw more schools to play in the Classic again.

While the start of Chicago State football may be seasons away, the Chicago Football Classic has reason to be optimistic. Having a hometown school with a predominantly Black student base has potential to take the Classic to new heights.