Howard will play Morehouse College in inaugural Nation's Football Classic at RFK Stadium

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 10:42 PM

The Howard University football team will play Morehouse College of Atlanta in the inaugural Nation's Football Classic on Sept. 10 at RFK Stadium. The game was announced at a news conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon.

The Washington Convention and Sports Authority, which has staged the Military Bowl at RFK in December for the past three years, is organizing the game in partnership with the United Negro College Fund.

"It's been something that's been in the works for a long time," said Erik Moses, managing director of the WCSA's Sports, Entertainment and Special Events division. "We thought the demographics worked for a black college football matchup in D.C. - the tradition and history of the city and these schools and their connections to this city."

The Nation's Football Classic will be held at RFK Stadium and feature Howard vs. Morehouse at least through 2013. Other historically black colleges and universities could play in subsequent games. Moses said he hopes to model the event on the Bayou Classic held annually in New Orleans.

"We can't be more excited to come together athletically," Howard University President Sidney Ribeau said.

D.C. United, RFK's only full-time tenant, expressed concern about a football game being held during its regular season. United is scheduled to play Chivas USA at RFK on Sept. 21 and has three additional matches in September and October.

This winter, as MLS was preparing the 2011 schedule, United was given a list of blackout dates by stadium officials, a common notification. However, "we weren't told the nature of this particular event," team spokesman Doug Hicks said. "The state of the playing surface is a concern of ours. The field has had difficulty recovering from bowl games [in December] the last couple of years. The current issue is being addressed this spring with a new field, but we're eager to engage in discussions about the recovery effort this fall."

Moses is eager to bring more football to the stadium. "We've already re-established football at RFK," he said. "Now we're adding to that. We're adding a second game. If I had my way, we'd hopefully add a third game."

Among those in attendance at the conference were former Howard standout Antoine Bethea, who plays for the Indianapolis Colts. The mayors of Washington and Atlanta also spoke and made a friendly wager.

"This is going to be a great game," District Mayor Vincent C. Gray said before poking fun at Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. "I'm not going to have any difficulty figuring out the team I'm going to root for."

Reed, who attended Howard for undergraduate and law school and sits on the Howard board of trustees, wouldn't commit to which team he was going to cheer for. Instead, in response to Gray's offer of a meal at Ben's Chili Bowl if Morehouse wins, Reed promised a meal at the Varsity if Howard wins.

"I can't lose," Reed said. "I'm going to come with the champ and leave with the champ."

The game also marks the local debut of Howard Coach Gary Harrell, who was hired in January. Howard and Division II Morehouse last met in 1997.

Staff writer Steven Goff contributed to this report.

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