Days after Mississippi Valley State head coach Kendrick Wade publicly expressed disappointment in how the football team was treated during its stay for the Chicago Football Classic, the event’s organizer went into further detail about the issues at hand.
Larry Huggins, who co-founded the Chicago Football Classic, told HBCU Sports in a phone interview Mississippi Valley State athletic director Hakim McCllean revealed to him what went wrong.
As explained to Huggins by McClellan, the team’s scheduled chartered flight from Mississippi to Chicago was delayed several hours, which caused the Delta Devils to arrive late.
“There were some issues at the airport where instead of leaving at 10 a.m., they (MVSU) left at 3 p.m.,” Huggins said. “I don’t know what happened at the airport that caused them to be delayed. That’s what kind of got the ball rolling and messed their schedule up.”
With the team’s itinerary in disarray, a second issue arose. The Delta Devils, said Huggins, had a team meal at a Chicago restaurant the night of arrival that was “not to the coach’s liking.”
“Those two things did happen,” said Huggins, who took responsibility for issues with meals on behalf of the Chicago Football Classic. “The airport stuff was out of our control and messed their schedule up. The coach had some legitimate issues. I can’t say they were not issues.”
Huggins said that Wade didn’t inform any officials associated with the Chicago Football Classic of problems that later surfaced, which he called “disappointing.”
Chicago Football Classic founder defends its reputation
However, McClellan did express interest in Mississippi Valley State returning to Chicago if ever invited in the future, said Huggins.
“He (McClellan) would love for Mississippi Valley State to come back next year. We would love to find a spot for them,” he said.
Since Wade’s candid comments about the Chicago Football Classic, Huggins has had to defend the event’s reputation, which has now been perceived as one run by predatory promoters looking to use HBCUs strictly for financial gain.
The Chicago Football Classic, a not-for-profit organization that supports programs and initiatives to help increase the educational opportunities for students, returned for the first time since 2019. For 25 years, Huggins has helped run the event along with co-founders Everett Rand and Tim Rand. The event has been backed by support from corporate sponsors and even the office of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
At this year’s event, the Chicago Football Classic awarded over $300,000 in scholarships to 20 Chicago area students.
“We’re not promoters. This game has an impact on the city and inner-city kids,” he said. “We want to continue to bring the classic here because we want these kids to go to HBCUs.”
Huggins also explained that the Chicago Football Classic is also a financial windfall for participating schools. However, he chose not to disclose Central State and Mississippi Valley State’s payout.
Mississippi Valley State officials declined to comment on the Chicago Football Classic situation when contacted by HBCU Sports. An HBCU Sports reporter also contacted Central State, but the school has not responded to an inquiry about the team’s experience.
However, Huggins affirmed that Central State did not render any complaints about the event.
“There were issues beyond our control, and I’m apologizing on behalf of the Chicago Football Classic for them,” he said. “If there were some missteps, we want to correct them and make sure they never happen again.”