Local councilman wants EverBank Stadium to host HBCU football games

Local councilman wants EverBank Stadium to host HBCU football games

Jacksonville City Councilman Rahman K. Johnson is pushing for HBCU football games to be held at the newly renovated EverBank Stadium, according to a report by JaxToday reporter Will Brown. This move comes on the heels of the City Council’s recent approval of a massive $775 million in public funding to renovate the stadium, with a commitment to attracting large events, including an annual HBCU football game. According to Brown, Johnson introduced the HBCU football amendment to the legislation that passed nearly unanimously on June 25.

Councilmember Rahman K. Johnson, elected in May 2023, is a distinguished figure in Jacksonville. Known for his work as a television and radio personality, he also has deep roots in the community. Johnson is an alumnus of Edward Waters University and Jackson State University, two prominent HBCUs. His connection to HBCUs doesn’t end there; he also served as an adjunct professor of communications at Edward Waters and is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.

Jacksonville has a rich history as a host for college football games. In Brown’s article, he notes that the annual Georgia-Florida rivalry game has been played in Jacksonville since 1933 (with a brief hiatus for renovations). Beyond this, the city has a long tradition of hosting black college football teams.

Daytona Beach-based Bethune-Cookman University has played several home games in Jacksonville, marking its 54th and 55th appearance in the city over the past two years. While the Wildcats will not be back this year, their presence has been a staple in Jacksonville football culture.

Jacksonville’s historical significance as the home of HBCU football is further underscored by the fact that JP Small Park hosted the first Orange Blossom Classic between Florida A&M and Howard University in 1933. Edward Waters University, located in Jacksonville, adds another layer of local pride for HBCUs.

Hosting HBCU football games at EverBank Stadium could have far-reaching benefits. For one, it would provide a unique cultural event for Jacksonville, enriching the city’s diverse sporting offerings. Plus, the economic impact could be substantial, drawing fans from across the region and boosting local businesses.

The return of the Orange Blossom Classic is a testament to how an HBCU classic can drive traffic and tourism to a city. The classic returned in 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida, and featured highly anticipated matchups between Jackson State and Florida A&M University that set the tone for the SWAC championship quest. Other events like Battle of the Bands also attracted HBCU alumni from around the country who were interested in the pageantry of HBCU football.

Florida is home to four HBCUs, including Edward Waters University in Jacksonville. Edward Waters has emerged as a strong contender in the SIAC, thanks to its dynamic offense, which led to several exciting games last year. In November, Edward Waters’ president took to Twitter to issue a challenge to reigning Celebration Bowl champions Florida A&M, suggesting a potential showdown with the new bill. Florida A&M played two non-HBCU Division II opponents, perennial contender University of West Florida and struggling Lincoln University (California).

Faison posted, “I’m not sure what the details were that led to @FAMU_FB’s game today against a winless @NCAADII opponent from Oakland, CA, but as a friendly reminder to our friends in Tallahassee, the state of Florida’s only @NCAA Division II HBCU resides in Jacksonville at @EWU_Athletics! The ties between our two institutions RUN DEEP and are inextricably linked! As such, if @FAMUAthletics is looking to schedule DII in the future, why not take a long look at Florida’s FIRST HBCU to compete in its former conference @TheSIAC? As standard-bearers for HBCU culture across our state, a potential matchup between @FAMU_1887 and @ewctigers would be an exceptional showcase and experience for both of our fan bases, stakeholders, and supporters. @LRobinsonFAMU, let’s make this happen for culture!”

The new commitment paves the way for multiple future HBCU matchups in Jacksonville and promises to attract tourism, revenue and significant media coverage.