By Steven J. Gaither
HBCU Gameday Senior Editor
This past weekend, Atlanta was Ground Zero for black college football.
Morehouse walked over to Clark Atlanta to play their nearby rivals in front of a crowd that could have just as easily been gathered to watch a Frankie Beverly and Maze concert as a football game. A couple of minutes down the road, MEAC rivals North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State met in the cavernous Georgia Dome with celebrities in abundance at the Atlanta Football Classic.
Away from all of the pomp and circumstance of those two games, Alonzo Herndon Stadium sat in complete silence. No band to move the crowd. No cheerleaders to pump up the crowd. In fact, there was no crowd to sit and watch the game, or to parade around and chat. It’s been that way since Morris Brown cut its football program in 2002.
I came into town Friday for the Atlanta Classic, and we cruised around the campuses of Spelman, Clark Atlanta and Morehouse. Before heading back to downtown, a friend told me I had to see Morris Brown’s stadium, where part of the original Drumline was shot.
Visiting the campus, as well as the stadium itself, was eerie and surreal. It was kind of like seeing a dead relative in their casket. You can tell that something special used to be there, but its long gone, and what you are looking at is just a shell.
Despite being padlocked, graffiti lined the walls of Herndon Stadium, turning the once-well kept structure into little more than a canvas for street tags. Vines crept up the gates that once opened the stadium up to eagar spectators. Much of the glass once used to insulate guests of presidents, as well as media, is either cracked or completely shattered. On the far end of the stadium, at least one man had made the once-home of the Wolverines his own. And the field that took center stage in “We Are Marshall” now looks like the kind of grass that you’d talk about your neighbor for.
I’d never been to Morris Brown before Friday. I don’t know anyone personally who went to Morris Brown. But as someone who loves HBCUs, and has an affinity for HBCU sports, seeing the abandoned stadium was a painful reminder of how quickly things can go south these days.
With declining enrollments and serious financial issues at many HBCUs, its likely we may see more Herndon Stadiums in the near future. We’re just a few years removed from St. Pauls cutting its football team shortly before cutting its doors, and several other HBCUs could be headed down the same track. Hopefully, Herndon will be the exception and not the rule.