Partnership extension keeps the Florida Blue Florida Classic in Orlando

The first matchup between Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University took place in Tallahassee in 1925.

The two historical universities recently announced an agreement to keep the Florida Blue Florida Classic in Orlando through the 2026 season.

The renewal between the Florida Classic Consortium, made up of leadership from both universities, and Orlando-based Florida Citrus Sports was announced recently by Bethune-Cookman University Interim President Dr. Lawrence Drake II and Florida A&M University President Dr. Larry Robinson.

“Florida Citrus Sports has been an indispensable and unconditional partner for the Consortium and our respective universities, and we are blessed to have formed such strong bonds over nearly three decades of partnership,” said Drake.

More than a football game and an in-state rivalry, The Florida Classic is now the nation’s largest football game between two Historically Black College/University (HBCU) schools.

Since its inception in 1978, the game has attracted over 2 million spectators (2,102,576), surpassing the Bayou Classic between Grambling and Southern in New Orleans as the top attended game in NCAA Division I-AA.

“The Florida Blue Florida Classic showcases one of the nation’s greatest football rivalries,” said Robinson.

“However, the ‘Classic’ is so much more than an athletic event to Bethune-Cookman University, Florida A&M University, the citizens and businesses of Orlando and Orange County, and the tens of thousands of alumni and fans who attend events year after year.”

This year’s rivalry game, broadcast live on ESPN3 with an encore showing on ESPNU, marked the 25th official Florida Classic matchup held in Orlando.

More than 1.5 million fans have attended the Classic at Camping World Stadium since the game made Central Florida its home in 1997, debuting a new model where the universities wholly own the event.

“Every November, our community is proud to welcome Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M to the City of Orlando for the Florida Blue Florida Classic,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

“We have been honored to host one of college football’s greatest rivalries at our Camping World Stadium for 25 years. The game continues to positively impact our city, but it’s more than just football.”

Events throughout the week included a VIP “Night of Distinction” reception, a massive kickoff luncheon featuring both head coaches, a Friday night Battle of the Bands at Amway Center and the state’s largest diversity job fair.

“The Classic is about the bands, tailgating, connecting with family and friends and supporting two great HBCUs,” said Dyer.

With nearly 60,000 annual spectators in Orlando — a 47 percent increase over average attendance at previous game sites — The Classic generates an estimated economic impact of $30 million on the Central Florida region each season.

“The Florida Blue Florida Classic is one of our community’s favorite annual celebrations, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the teams, the bands, the universities and their rich histories each fall,” said Florida Citrus Sports Chief Executive Officer, Steve Hogan.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the Consortium to ensure that the Florida Blue Florida Classic remains an Orlando fixture for future generations to enjoy.”

Through its agreement to provide event management services to FAMU and B-CU, Florida Citrus Sports also utilizes Florida Classic Weekend to benefit the West Lakes communities surrounding Camping World Stadium. Thousands of revelers fill Tampa Avenue, Lake Lorna Doone Park, FanFest at Tinker Field and the surrounding community on gameday.

The Florida Classic is an indispensable event for the Central Florida community.

“The family’s support for HBCUs runs deep. Our three sons are Florida A&M graduates, and my wife, Congresswoman Val Demings, boasts an honorary doctorate from Bethune-Cookman University,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings.

“It has given me great pride to see the Florida Blue Florida Classic blossom into the nation’s premier HBCU rivalry game.

With a centrally-located, first-class venue playing the role of host to these historic institutions, the future of the Classic is ripe with promise.

“Over the past 25 years, I’m proud of the support Orange County has shown these institutions since the game adopted my hometown as its own, and I look forward to making more Classic memories in the days ahead and the years to come,” said Demings.

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