PRESERVING HISTORY & LEGACIES
The Return of the Orange Blossom Classic
Alonzo “Jake” Gaither
Eddie Robinson, Sr.
Nathaniel “Traz” Powell
James “Shack” Harris
Labor Day Weekend will mark the return of the Orange Blossom Classic after 47 years. Again, Florida A&M, in its inaugural season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) will host Jackson State University. The game is scheduled to be played at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, September 5, 2021.
From 1933 -1978, the Florida A&M Rattlers hosted other Black college football teams and was the most popular event of the post season for Black college football fans. The event was considered the “Black National Championship” game.
For over 30 years, the Orange Blossom Classic football game in Miami recorded the largest annual attendance of Black college fans.
The 1967 Orange Blossom Classic was a “classic” in itself. Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Grambling University featured two top football teams with two star quarterbacks (FAMU’s Ken Riley and Grambling’s James “Shack” Harris, led by two legendary coaches, FAMU’s Jake Gaither and Grambling’s Eddie Robinson.
In a highly entertaining and hard-fought contest, the Rattlers outlasted the Tigers, 28-25.
The Orange Blossom Classic was founded by J.R.E. Lee Jr., the son of Florida A&M University’s president in 1933.
At time when black college football teams were not allowed to compete in bowl games, that breakthrough game FAMU defeated Howard, 9-0 in front of 2,000 fans at a “blacks-only” ballpark in Jacksonville, Fla.
For 13 years, the contest was shifted around the Florida cities of Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa before settling in Miami in 1947.
That game set another precedent as for the first time, black fans were permitted to play in the previously white only Orange Bowl.
Before a sellout crowd in a hotly contested defensive battle, Florida A&M wide receiver Nathaniel “Traz” Powell caught a 45-yard pass for the only score of the game and the Rattlers downed Hampton Institute 7-0.
Powell became the first black player to score a touchdown in the Orange Bowl.
The last game was played in 1978. By then, the game had suffered from dwindling sponsorship and attendance. Ironically, the Rattlers faced the Tigers of Grambling and overwhelmed them, 31- 7. FAMU, led by head coach Rudy Hubbard went on to become the only HBCU to win a NCAA Division I-AA national football championship. They defeated UMass, 35-28.
Black College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021
The 11th Black College Football Hall of Fame class includes five players from the SWAC and SIAC respectively and a head coach that won seven CIAA championships in his career.
This class features the first induction of a punter in the Hall of Fame’s history. These inductees bring the total to 96 overall in the HBCU football Hall of now Fame including 78 players and 12 coaches.
James “Shack” Harris and Doug Williams,
Bacon played four years with the Jackson State Tigers and helped lead the team to the 1962 SWAC championship in his freshman season.
Bacon began his professional career in 1965 with the Charleston (W.Va.) Rockets of the Continental Football League. He spent the 1967 season on the Dallas Cowboys on the reserve squad before joining the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL in 1968.
He teamed with the Fearsome Foursome defensive linemates Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Roger Brown and Lamar Lundy after spending the first half of the season on the practice squad.
Bacon played 13 seasons playing with the Rams, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Washington Football Team.
He was named to three Pro Bowls in his career.
Willard Bailey Coach, Virginia Union University (1971-1983; 1995-2003),
Norfolk State University (1984-1992), Saint Paul’s College (2005-2010), Virginia University of Lynchburg (2011-2013)
Willard Bailey’s coaching career began Essex County High School in Virginia. He went on to have an illustrious 42-year coaching career with an overall record of 238-168 in the CIAA. His teams made six NCAA Division II playoff appearances and won seven Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles.
His Virginia Union teams did not have a losing season in his first stint from 1971 to 1983 and made five consecutive Division II playoff appearances.
Bailey’s teams won 57 games with four conference titles and six Division II playoff appearances. In his second stint at Virginia Union, he showed his ability to rebuild when after going 0-8-2 in 1995, the team went 6-5 two years later and 8-3 three seasons later. When he was at St. Paul’s College, he helped Greg Toler become the school’s first player to be selected in the NFL draft.
Coleman was one of the first African American punters in the NFL and the first punter to be inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
He had a successful college career at FAMU and went on to play in the NFL. Coleman had a 12-year career in the National Football League with the Cleveland Browns, including 10 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, and the Washington Redskins.
He finished in the top five in total punts five times including the 1982 seasons in which he led the league in that category.
Coleman was selected by the fans to be a member of the Viking 40th Anniversary team. Other honors include the Florida A & M Football Hall of Fame (1985) and the State of Florida Track and Field Hall of Fame.
He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Coleman currently is the Minnesota Vikings sideline reporter for KFAN.
One of two Alcorn State Braves inducted into the 2021 class, the two-time All-SWAC tight end won two SWAC championships with the Braves in 1974 and 1976.
He was selected in the third round (70th overall) in the 1977 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. Giles would play 13 seasons in the NFL including nine with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he made nine Pro Bowl appearances. He finished his career with 350 receptions for 5,084 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Tampa bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor.
Hill was a three-time All-SWAC offensive and defensive lineman Texas Southern.
He was a 11th round pick of the New York Jets in the 1963 AFL Draft. He played 15 seasons (14 with the Jets) and was named to eight Pro Bowls including seven straight from 1967-1973.
He became the left offensive tackle which protected Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath and played a pivotal role for Jets team that won Super Bowl III.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2020.
In his three years at Alcorn State, Roynell Young was a three All-SWAC defensive back and an NAIA All-American team. He was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2017.
Young was selected 23rd overall in the 1980 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles where he spent his entire nine-year NFL career. He finished with 23 career interceptions making a Super Bowl appearance in his rookie year and a Pro Bowl in his second year.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021
Bob Dandridge, Ben Wallace joins the Class of '21
“For the first time in our history, we’ll enshrine two Classes in one calendar year,”
(John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame)
Rick Adelman, ninth-winningest coach in NBA history
Chris Bosh, two-time NBA champion, 11-time NBA All-Star
Paul Pierce, NBA Finals MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star
Bill Russell, the first Black NBA head coach, two-time NBA champion
Ben Wallace, four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Champion
Chris Webber, five-time NBA All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year
Jay Wright, two-time NCAA national champion Villanova coach
Yolanda Griffith, seven-time WNBA All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist
Lauren Jackson, seven-time WNBA All-Star and three-time WNBA MVP
The Contributor Committee:
Val Ackerman, president of the WNBA
Cotton Fitzsimmons, two-time NBA Coach of the Year
Howard Garfinkel, founder, Five-Star Basketball Camp
The Early African American Pioneers Committee:
Clarence “Fats” Jenkins, Captain, the New York Rens
The International Committee:
Toni Kukoc, 3-time NBA champion, 3-time EuroLeague champion
The Veterans Committee:
Bob Dandridge, two-time NBA champion
The Women’s Veterans Committee:
Pearl Moore, WPBL champion
A CELEBRATION of BLACK COLLEGE HISTORY in SPORTS
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY
Texas Southern University founded as Houston Junior College… one of the largest HBCUs …famous alum: Barbara Jordan, NFL Hall of Famers Michael Strahan, Ken Burroughs; Pittsburgh Steeler great Ernie Holmes, CFL Hall of Famer Donald Narcisse, and Olympic gold medalist Jim Hines.
Tuskegee Institute established on July 4 by Lewis Adams and Booker T. Washington… home to George Washington Carver and World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen…Tigers football team has won 29 SIAC championships…oldest African American relay meet began in 1927. Other famed alumni: Alice Coachman, first black female Olympian.
Winston-Salem State University founded as Slater Industrial School for Negroes…noted alumni include former NBA player Cleo Hill, NBA Hall of Famer Earl Monroe, and NFL star Timmy Newsome.
Wilma Rudolph, Tennessee State… world-record-holding Olympic champion and leader of the TSU Tigerbelles in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics Track & Field… three-time Gold Medalist in the 1960 Olympics in the 100M, 200M and anchored the 4X100 relay team.
Wyomia Tyus, Tennessee State… famed Tigerbelle was the first to repeat as the Olympic titleholder in the 100M …led the 4x100M relay team to another gold medal in 1968 Olympics….added a gold medal in the 200M at the 1967 Pan AM Games.
James "Mudcat" Grant Jr. (Aug.13, 1935 – June 11, 2021)
A Game Changer
The Lacoochee, Florida native attended Moore Academy, Dade City, Florida where he excelled in football, basketball, and baseball.
Grant was awarded a scholarship to play football and baseball at
Florida A&M University. However, he dropped out during his sophomore year in order to support his family through financial difficulty.
He was signed as an free agent by the Cleveland Indians before the 1954 season and was a roommate of his boyhood idol Larry Doby.
He played for the Indians, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1958 to 1971.
In 1965, he became an All-Star pitcher and the ace of the 1965 Twins team that won the AL pennant.
Grant became the first black pitcher to win 20 games in a season in the American League and the first black pitcher to win a World Series game for the American League. He pitched two complete-game World Series victories in 1965, hit a three-run home run in game 6, and was named The Sporting News American League Pitcher of the Year.
He was a two-time American League All-Star (1963, 1965), and led the AL in wins in1965.