Last week, The Ladd-Peebles Sports and Entertainment Complex announced they were adding a second HBCU Classic to venerable Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the Port City Classic between Grambling and Alabama State. This is great for the stadium as HBCUs keep the former home of the Senior Bowl and LendingTree Bowl alive with yearly classics.
One school in particular needs to align itself with the new string of Mobile classics. Recently, Arkansas Pine-Bluff secured a spot in the next two Southern Heritage Classics after Jackson State withdrew from participation. After the Golden Lions’ St. Louis Classic fell through, the established classic in Memphis provides great exposure to the program and is a short trip for its fans at 145 miles away or a 2.5-hour drive.
The Golden Lions had long been an afterthought on the Classic circuit as they had only one appearance in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge in 2015.
Even more of an afterthought is Mississippi Valley State who appeared in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge in 2013 and was a de facto road team playing Florida A&M at the Citrus Bowl. Aside from that, the Delta Devils’ last classic of note was a 2010 appearance in the Chicago Football Classic.
MVSU’s past appearances in the Chicago Football Classic, a game they appeared in a whopping total of seven times, including six appearances from 2004-2010 show the program’s desire to play in high-profile classics and increase the program’s brand. The Mobile classics could do just that and demand less travel from fans.
It makes sense that MVSU has been a pariah to neutral site classics given the small population of Itta Bena (1679 as of the 2020 census) and the small enrollment of Mississippi Valley State (2064 as of Fall 2021). Still, the Delta Devils were 70th in attendance in the FCS, better than nearly half the subdivision, averaging 5,440 fans per game, so fans may travel to Mobile.
Mobile is an easy trip for Delta Devil fans at only 300 miles and a 4.5-hour car drive away. Delta Devils fans could use the change of scenery and the experience of a classic that the program has been lacking. A rotation with the Delta Devils in either the Port City Classic or Gulf Coast Challenge could avoid the weariness of playing in Mobile every year.
Beyond the fan experience, the payout of a Classic would aid the program too. The Gulf Coast Challenge paid Jackson State $450,000 for each of their appearances in the 2022 and 2024 games. That payout alone is over 10% of Mississippi Valley State athletic budget. The Delta Devils athletic budget is only $3.9 million, the lowest in the FCS. A $450,000 boost contributes greatly to new facilities and in turn aids the Delta Devils recruiting efforts immensely.
With two classics, Mobile needs variety to avoid weariness from fanbases in the SWAC. Throwing Mississippi Valley State into the rotation would be a win-win for both parties. The Delta Devils would gain exposure and a boost for its budget in the sake of giving its fans a great Classic experience. Mississippi Valley State needs to act quickly to be a fixture in Mobile in the coming years.