What’s Next For The Brick City Classic?

Hampton’s withdrawal from the Brick City Classic puts it in a tenuous position. Luckily, the Classic still has options, but time is running out.

Hampton and Grambling played in the inaugural Brick City Classic last season
Source: KBE Sports/NJ Biz

Hampton University metaphorically put a wrecking ball to this year's Brick City Classic. Rather than kicking off the season at New Jersey's Red Bull Arena, the Pirates gave up their home game against archrival Howard to play in the Truth & Service Classic at Audi Field for the second straight year. Morgan State will now visit Hampton, deeming my earlier prediction obsolete.

It is still only April, so the Brick City Classic can convert one of Morgan State's home games, but the choices are slim. There are five realistic options as Morgan State's replacement opponent for the Brick City Classic.

Lincoln (PA): October 5th

Long ago, Morgan State and Lincoln (PA) was one of Black College Football's most intriguing rivalries. The two schools will meet for the first time since 1953, during Dwight Eisenhower's first term. The list of the game's locations reads like a "who's who" of Negro League ballparks. New York's Dyckman Oval and Baltimore's Black Sox Park are two of the fabled stadiums to host this rivalry. A neutral site game between the two schools would be a fitting homage to the past.

Lincoln has not had a winning season since reviving its football program in 2008. Still, their Brick City Classic candidacy has merit. The Lions' campus is less than two hours away from Red Bull Arena, and they have not played in a neutral site classic since their program's resurrection. The detracting argument preventing Lincoln from participation is their lack of fan support. Lincoln plays at the tiny 2,600-seat LU Athletics Stadium and failed to sell it out in four of its five home games.

Merrimack: October 12th

I am well aware Merrimack is a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) beginning its residence in FCS purgatory as an independent. I also wrote about the apathy of Harvard's fanbase for the 2022 Truth & Service Classic against Howard and how it will likely prevent another PWI from playing in any HBCU Classic. Nevertheless, there is an intriguing case for the Warriors participating in the Brick City Classic.

Big games will be at a premium for the Merrimack program as an independent. They will likely never participate in the FCS Playoffs unless they are undefeated, and they will not have conference rivalries to cultivate excitement.

A game at any professional stadium is rare for the program. Merrimack has never played in the home stadium of a major American pro sports team (unless you count their game at Harvard Stadium, which hosted Boston Patriots home games in 1970).

One can imagine several Merrimack fans will make the four-hour trip from North Andover to Harrison, NJ for Big Apple sightseeing and football. Merrimack averaged 4,505 fans per home game in 2023 in a stadium that seats 4,000 and 5,735 fans per game in 2022.

However, Morgan State will likely not play Merrimack in the Brick City Classic because they are a PWI lacking a rich history. Convincing Morgan State fans to give up a home game and travel a few hours to see their Bears play Merrimack will be difficult. The same applies to local fans. Casual fans will not be as familiar with Merrimack, especially since they have been an FCS program for only five years.

Norfolk State: November 2nd

Logically, Norfolk State would likely replace Hampton in the Brick City Classic. Unfortunately, Norfolk State makes a rare appearance in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge this year against the defending Black College Football Champions, Florida A&M.

Spartan fans may be less motivated to make the six-hour drive to Red Bull Arena after making a further drive to Atlanta to watch their team play in their first MEAC-SWAC Challenge. Travel fatigue is real and one of the reasons why Florida A&M withdrew from the Orange Blossom Classic.

South Carolina State: November 16th

South Carolina State is one of the MEAC's most consistent programs. However, they are too far from Red Bull Arena to be a realistic option for the Brick City Classic. Furthermore, the proximity of their matchup to Thanksgiving adds more difficulty for fans to travel to this game. South Carolina State is 11 hours from Red Bull Arena, much further than the other options on this list. Furthermore, road games against the Citadel and Georgia Southern are far more likely to attract a traveling party of Bulldogs fans.

Howard: November 23rd

Imagine the MEAC's spot in the Celebration Bowl is at stake at the end of the season at Red Bull Arena. Howard possibly replacing their rival in the Brick City Classic is a rare case of addition by subtraction. The Bison desperately wants to be New York City's HBCU school. They will play at MetLife Stadium for the second time in three years when they play Morehouse this year.

The stakes for this one could be high. Morgan State is a dark horse in the six-school MEAC, and Howard is the defending champion. Their meeting on November 23rd could be the defacto MEAC Championship Game.

The Bears and Bison meeting in the Brick City Classic with a Celebration Bowl berth on the line would give the game significant publicity. If the Brick City Classic becomes a Howard-Morgan State matchup, Hampton's departure could be the best thing to happen to the classic.

The Brick City Classic's ordeal is suboptimal. However, they still have options and could ultimately upgrade if they play their cards wisely.