During the late 1940s and early 1950s, the annual Capital Classic football game at old Griffith Stadium in Washington was the biggest game between black colleges on the East Coast.
Weeklong festivities that culminated with a match between the cream of the black football teams - Grambling, Tennessee State, North Carolina Central among others - made the event socially the place to be.
Several factors, including conflicts between promoters, brought the annual event to an end in 1954.
Two enterprising promoters hope to revive that tradition here, starting Saturday with Tennessee State meeting North Carolina Central in the first edition of "A Touch of Greatness" at RFK Stadium.
The name of the game is different to avoid conflicts with original promotes of the Classic.
"Washington is the birthplace of black college football," said Charles Clinton, one of this year's "Greatness" organizers. "We're trying to bring the concept back to D.C."
Clinton and Pep Ali got the notion last summer for such a game to help publicize a newly formed marketing management firm they started. Clinton played quarterack at North Carolina Central, and Ali was a basketball player at Tennessee State in the "60s.
When Ali got in touch with Tennessee State, he found the school had an open date on its schedule. Howard, Morgan State and Winston-Salem State were contacted as possible opponents, but arrangements could not be worked out with any of them. N.C. Central then agreed to play.
"We had been wanting to play in the Washington because we have a lot of alumni there," said TSU athletic director Samuel Whitmon. "Our players like to go to new places and this was a chance to show our wares in the East."
TSU had not played in the Washington are since the Classic of the late '40s although the Tigers had gotten as close as North Carolina when they used to schedule A&T, then called North Carolina College.
"There is a fertile audience in Washington because of the large black population," said Whitmon. "I would love to see a Classic-type annual game reestablished." Whitmon added that his decision to play the game was tied to the money the school would receive for the game. "It's a matter of money. This is busing."
Clinton said he was expecting a crowd of 25,000 to 30,000 for the 1 p.m. contest. Part of the proceeds will benefit financially troubled Shaw University of North Carolina and the United Negro College Fund. He added that ticket sales at several record stores in the area are "going fantastic."
The last two times two out-of-town black colleges played here - Grambling vs. Morgan State both times - was in 1974 and 1975: Crowds at RFK numbered 28,000 and 24,210, respectively. The 1974 game was played in a downpour.
The promoters are depending on the past reputations of the teams rather than their performance this season for gate appeal. TSU, with one of the toughest schedules of black colleges in the nation, is 5-3 this year, having lost Jackson State, Texas Southern and Grambling. Central is 2-5.
Seven TSU players were picked in the first six rounds of the 1978 NFL draft.TSU has the best winning percentage in the nation over the past 11 full seasons. It has supplied defensive ends Claude Humphrey and Ed (Too Tall) Jones to the pro ranks.
NCC won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title in 1972-73 but the Eagles have fallen on hard times recently, finishing 1-10 last season.
The last time the teams met in Washington was in 1954. Central won to wrap up the mythical national championship of black colleges.