Organizers of the Prince George's Classic will announce next week whether the football event will be held again next year.
At a meeting last week, the classic's co-founder, Mike Little, said that although this year's game lost money, there is enough interest from sponsors, the community and government officials to warrant another try.
Little said that organizers received a positive response from the Washington Redskins organization, which allowed them to use FedEx Field in Landover rent-free.
County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who met with Little after the first game, was also supportive of a second try, Little said.
Little said he would also meet soon with Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R). A decision about the game's future should come by early next week, Little said.
"We got the seed in the ground," Little said.
The inaugural Prince George's Classic, which pitted Howard University against Alcorn State University of Mississippi, was played Sept. 18 before about 12,000 spectators at FedEx Field. Howard University's Bison upset the previously undefeated Braves, 17-10.The game was the realization of a longtime dream of businessmen Little and Hubert "Petey" Green, president of the Prince George's Black Chamber of Commerce. They decided two years ago that they wanted to organize an event to spotlight the nation's wealthiest majority-black county.
At last week's meeting, Little told the audience that the Prince George's Classic had been successful in raising the county's profile.
"The larger advertisers don't know anything about Prince George's County," Little said. "They don't know about the income, they don't know about the education, they don't know about the demographics. . . . We've had people contact us after the game to say if you go again, we want to go with you."
The Prince George's Classic was fashioned after events such as the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis and the Bayou Classic in New Orleans, which feature historically black college teams and a week-long schedule of activities that can include talent shows, gospel concerts, step shows, art exhibitions, lectures and job fairs.
For the schools, classics are major events that can generate millions of dollars for the hosting cities and often are used by the colleges as annual reunions. Just as important as the football games are the popular halftime shows that feature well-rehearsed, tightly choreographed and highly competitive performances by the schools' bands.
This year's Prince George's Classic featured a reception hosted by the Prince George's County Black Chamber of Commerce at the Greenbelt Marriott that drew 600 local business and community leaders; a fashion show and dinner at LaFontaine Bleu in Lanham; a golf tournament at the Lake Arbor Golf Club; a job fair at the Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex; and a battle of the bands at Cole Field House at the University of Maryland in College Park.
Organizers said they wanted to hold events in Prince George's County to showcase the area, but Little said that next year some might be held outside the county if adequate facilities are not available locally.
Several golfers who were approached to participate in the tournament indicated that they prefer a different course, Little said. The Country Club at Woodmore in Mitchellville and Renditions Golf Club in Davidsonville have been suggested as possible tournament sites.
Little said admission prices for some events, such as the $50 to get into the fashion show, also might be modified. But game ticket prices, which ranged from $25 for an end zone seat with parking to $125 for the VIP package, which included a tailgate party inside the stadium and parking, probably would not change much because they are already lower than other classics, he said.
In the end, Little said, sponsors, local businesses and citizens did not respond as organizers had hoped. "We did not have the support of major sponsors and local businesses," he said. The game cost $1.8 million and ended $600,000 in the red, he said.
Sponsorships were slowed because organizers had only about nine months to get ready from the time the contract was signed, he said. The main problem with ticket sales was the rain that plagued the local area during classic week, Little said. The golf tournament was played in a light rain and the battle of the bands was delayed because of a thunderstorm. The dampness lingered into the weekend, stopping only three hours before kickoff.