|Tuskegee announced it will not participate in the Turkey Day Classic against Alabama State this year. (AL.com)|
Many things have changed in the world of Black College Football over the years, but one constant has been the Turkey Day Classic between Tuskegee University and Alabama State. But it appears that the days of Tuskegee’s participation in the nearly 90-year old event are over.
The annual holiday match-up was noticeably absent from the program’s 2013 football schedule, which was released on Tuesday. The accompanying press release explained the primary motivation for the change was the possibility of making a run into the Division II playoffs.
“Inspired by the run of Winston Salem State last season, Tuskegee Football feels that the move will allow the Golden Tigers more freedom to play further into the postseason by participating in the NCAA Division II playoffs, if eligible.”
Winston-Salem State won three playoff games last season, becoming the first HBCU to reach the D2 National Championship Game since Central State in the early 80s. Coincidentally, the Golden Tigers will face the Rams on Sept. 21 in the Cleveland Classic.
Alabama State has added another SIAC school, Stillman College, to take Tuskegee’s place in the TDC on Nov. 28.
This is the second major HBCU classic to be altered this season. Earlier in the year, Norfolk State was forced to drop Virginia State from the Labor Day Classic due to newly implemented NCAA rules.
Although the official announcement just came down, there has been speculation recently as to whether or not Tuskegee would drop out of the TDC and make a playoff run. Football wise, the move makes perfect sense. The Golden Tigers had an impressive season, winning 10 of 12 games, including a 27-25 win over Alabama State and winning the SIAC title. But playing in the TDC kept them out of the playoffs, while Fort Valley State and Miles went. TU went 3-0 against those teams, including a win over FVSU in the SIAC Championship Game.
The argument against dropping the Turkey Day Classic is two-fold. For one, it’s a tradition that has literally lasted for generations. While there were a few years in the 80s where Tuskegee didn’t participate, this has pretty much been an annual contest since 1924.
The other side to the pro-TDC argument is purely financial. The game, which drew 27,500 fans in last season’s 27-25 Tuskegee victory, is a huge cash cow. Not playing the game could have substantial financial consequences. Should the Golden Tigers not make the playoffs, they will have sacrificed their biggest game with nothing to show for it. And should they make the playoffs, making that money back will be a risky proposition. But apparently for the Tuskegee administration, it’s a risk they are willing to take on.