Willie Simmons and Deion Sanders
Photo: Orange Blossom Classic

The most anticipated HBCU football season opener in recent years will be on display for a nationally televised audience.

ESPN announced Thursday that the Orange Blossom Classic featuring Jackson State and Florida A&M will be shown on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. CST on Sept. 5.

Originally a postseason game held between 1933 and 1978 featuring FAMU and other HBCUs in an unofficial championship commonly referred to as the “Black National Championship” game, will return after a 43-year absence.

JSU coach Deion Sanders had been adamant since his hire last September that Black college football games should be made available prominently on TV similarly to FBS contests.

Also read: ESPN is placing HBCU football front and center. A sports media analyst explains what it means

FAMU head coach Willie Simmons, during a press conference earlier this month to promote the match-up, echoed the sentiment.

“We deserve to be on prime time television, not ESPN3, but prime-time television like everyone else,” Simmons said.

While the game will not exactly be played under the lights, it promises to give HBCU athletes the rare opportunity to be seen — something that had been a recent topic of discussion after no college players represented an HBCU was selected during the 2021 NFL Draft.

“You’re going to see some draftable athletes, I promise you that,” Sanders said. “This is not just a game. It’s a celebration. It’s an opportunity for us to put our players on stage.”


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