Hampton’s Epic Battles In the City of Brotherly Love

Hampton has only played a handful of games in Philadelphia before Saturday’s clash against Villanova, but all have been intriguing battles

Hampton will play in Philadelphia for the first time since the Reagan Administration
Source: Mark Sutton/Hampton Athletics

This weekend, Hampton continues its first season in the CAA with a game in the City of Brotherly Love against playoff contender Villanova. While the Pirates are 4-3 overall, they are just 1-3 in the CAA with that one win coming against 1-6 Albany. If the Pirates are to have any hope for their first FCS Playoff appearance since 2006 they must beat the Wildcats.

While this game is an important one in the FCS Playoff race, it pales in comparison to the epic battles Hampton waged in Philadelphia nearly a century ago. The Pirates have played in the City of Brotherly Love three times, with two of those games coming against Lincoln and the other coming against Cheyney.

In the late 1920s and 1930s, there was arguably no bigger game in Black College Football than the Lincoln-Hampton game. From 1929-1931, the series received the privilege of calling Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds home. Two other meetings were at the Baker Bowl, “The House That Chuck Klein Built.”

NFL Action at the Baker Bowl in 1933
Source: Larry Schmitt/ Big Blue Interactive

In 1924, Hampton and Lincoln had their first meeting at the Baker Bowl with Lincoln winning 7-3 over the Pirates. After Hampton took advantage of great starting field position and kicked a 35-yard field goal, Lincoln returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to set up a short touchdown drive and the go-ahead score. At season’s end, Lincoln won a share of the Black College Football National Championship, while Hampton had a solid season themselves, going 5-2-1.

Six years later, the rivalry returned to Philadelphia. After meeting at Yankee Stadium earlier in the 1930 season, the schools held a rubber match at the Baker Bowl on the first Saturday of December. Hampton’s defense held off three Lincoln drives that reached inside the five yard-line to preserve a 9-0 win. Hampton’s win capped a 7-1-1 campaign, while Lincoln went 4-4-1.

Hampton would not return to the city of Brotherly Love until 1985 when they played at Cheyney University, and beat the Wolves 31-7.

This week’s opponent, while not an HBCU, still has a strong football pedigree as Villanova awaits them. Just like in the Delaware game earlier this season, the Pirates have a chance to prove they belong in the CAA with a win against the Wildcats. Regular trips to Philadelphia will be huge for recruiting and fan interest for the Pirates.

The Northeast is mostly untapped to HBCUs as Howard attempted to claim some of that soil in the HBCU NYC Classic earlier this season. A battle with Villanova as epic as those that Hampton waged in the Jazz Age would go a long way in strengthening the Pirates’ Northeast footprint.

Both Hampton and Lincoln’s Record Books were tremendous aids to my research, as well as Mark Pollack’s book, The Playing Grounds of College Football, which you can buy here.