In the three years the University of the District of Columbia has fielded a football team, Saturdays have meant returning to the neighborhoods of players' younger days and competing on borrowed high school fields.
This Saturday, the Firebirds will get a rare treat as they play Fayetteville State at RFK Stadium. The game will mark the revival of the Nation's Captial Classic, a once-annual event that was discontinued in 1962 after 20 years.
John Black, a retired area businessman who is president of the Committee of Black Sportsmen, led the revival, getting the teams together and planning the events associated with the game. These events will include a black-tie dinner Friday night at the Capital Hilton and a parade-pep rally Saturday.
Black put $40,000 of his own money into the event and hopes to get enough in return to keep the game (not to mention himself) above water for the future. Black said he has been interested in reviving the game since 1963, when the assassination of President John F. Kennedy caused the cancellation of the game.
"I don't expect this to be a big financial success," said Black. "It took a long time to get the money and the teams together for this but what I want to remind people is that this is game No. 1 with many more to come."
Black's incentive has come from the streets of Washington. "We want to perpetuate the idea of going to school for black children in Washington. I think it's important to maintain interest in the city's schools. School is one thing that can keep these children from things like drugs."
According to UDC spokesman Jim McCannon, the satellite events revolving around the 1:30 p.m. game are as important as the contest. "This is a social event as well as being athletic. The old Capital Classic was a community event with the annual dinner, etc. The whole area can benefit from the game but the main purpose is to raise scholarship money."
While different area teams will be playing in the classic each year, UDC can particularly benefit from being part of the first game.
UDC, which has moved to NCAA Division II this year, is playing its games at Coolidge High School this year. "Growing with a program and struggling with it is a part of education but it's nice to occasionally smell the roses and play on a first-class field," said McCannon.