ORLANDO — Bethune-Cookman University and Florida A&M University will host "Virtual Florida Blue Florida Classic Week" in November, a collection of online events celebrating both institutions, their students, football teams, bands and alumni. The week of events begins Tuesday, Nov. 17 and will include a pledge drive to support the HBCUs in lieu of ticket sales to the traditional in-person events.
Over the past four decades, including nearly 25 years in Central Florida, the Florida Blue Florida Classic has blossomed from a fierce local football rivalry to a nationally televised, must-see spectacle of HBCU culture and Black joy. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the 41st edition of the game to fall 2021.
"This crisis has disproportionately impacted HBCUs and our communities, and we need to protect each other until a safe return to play is possible," B-CU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Lynn W. Thompson said. "Though we cannot gather in person, we need to keep the family bond strong through next season."
More than just an action-packed football game, the Classic is a weeklong family reunion, blending sports, music, food and culture, with event proceeds supporting scholarship funds at both universities.
To replace those lost ticket sales, FAMU and B-CU are encouraging alumni, fans and supporters around the globe to visit FloridaClassic.org to support these historic universities amid unprecedented financial hardship. A goal of 60,000 individual donations of $20 or more — equivalent to a Camping World Stadium sellout — and additional support from game sponsors would drive critical support in 2020.
"Nothing can replace the experience of being at the Florida Blue Florida Classic live, but these events will emphasize the value of the HBCU experience to audiences beyond our state lines," FAMU Vice President and Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha said. "We need our fans to help us 'sell out' this year's Florida Classic for the next generation of Rattlers and Wildcats."
During the week of Nov. 17-21 – the original date of the Florida Blue Florida Classic weekend – the Consortium and its partners will celebrate the rivalry with a series of virtual events highlighting the critical role HBCUs play in our community.
The weeklong slate will include appearances from the Marching "100" of Florida A&M and Marching Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman, football head coaches Terry Sims and Willie Simmons, alumni from both institutions and other special guests. The week of events is presented with support from traditional game sponsors, including title sponsor Florida Blue.
"The Florida Blue Florida Classic is more than just a football game. It's more like a family reunion. And this year, for the health and safety of our HBCU family, we need to celebrate these two great universities virtually—just as we've had to do with so many other family gatherings during the pandemic," Florida Blue Market President Tony Jenkins said. "Florida Blue's commitment to Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman is unwavering. This pandemic has taken a great toll on our community, and we encourage all Rattlers and Wildcats to make their health a top priority so we can safely reunite again in the future."
Virtual Florida Blue Florida Classic Weekend Schedule of Events
Tuesday, Nov. 17 – Wednesday, Nov. 18
OrlandoJobs.com Diversity Job Fair
The two-day event will feature seminars on job hunting skills, career-focused panels and live interviews with prospective employers. The event is open to students and alumni as well as the general public.
Wednesday, Nov. 18, 6 p.m.
Florida Blue Florida Classic Coaches Show
Join B-CU head football coach Terry Sims and FAMU head football coach Willie Simmons, along with current Wildcat and Rattler football players and notable alumni for a look back at great moments in the Florida Blue Florida Classic rivalry, a peek inside the team and a look ahead to the move to the SWAC.
Thursday, Nov. 19, 6 p.m.
The Florida Blue Florida Classic: Making A Difference Through Service
Hosted by City of Orlando District 6 Commissioner Bakari Burns
FAMU alum and City of Orlando District 6 Commissioner Bakari Burns honors notable personalities from both institutions, featuring conversations that reflect on the HBCU experience, Florida Blue Florida Classic memories and the important issues facing our community.
Friday, Nov. 20, 6 p.m.
Virtual Florida Blue Battle of the Bands
No halftime? No problem. The world-famous Marching "100" of Florida A&M and "The Pride" of Bethune-Cookman showcase past performances along with all-new insight into the programs.
Friday, Nov. 20, 8 p.m.
Online R&Bingo: Florida Blue Florida Classic Edition
Hosted by T. Gaines Entertainment, Online R&Bingo is a fun and competitive way to dance to the hits. If the DJ plays an artist on your bingo card, mark the space and you could have a chance to win prizes.
Saturday, Nov. 21, 6 p.m.
Alumni Association Pep Rallies
Cap off Virtual Florida Blue Florida Classic Week with fellow alumni and fans with pep rallies hosted by each university's national alumni association.