Orange Blossom Classic Returns Amidst COVID-19
Historical Significance Brings A Community Together During Global Pandemic
After a 42 year hiatus, the Orange Blossom Classic is returning to Miami, Florida on September 6, 2020. With COVID-19 keeping people indoors and creating a new “normal” for many, revisiting the history of America’s historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) serves as a reminder of how far determination and motivation can get you even during the hardest of times. As Florida A&M University plans to go head-to-head with Albany State University, we’re excited and humbled to review the rich history of this post-season game that we hope to make an annual tradition once again.
The Orange Blossom Classic (OBC) was founded by J.R.E. Lee Jr., the son of Florida A&M University’s president in 1933. Each year, the OBC featured Florida A&M University versus another HBCUs in an unofficial championship game that was known for its elaborate halftime shows, parades, and a strong sense of camaraderie and community. The OBC occurred annually from 1933 to 1978, serving as the must-see game that helped establish some of the other HBCU Classics. “The Orange Blossom Classic reached the peak of its popularity from the 1950s through the early 1960s and showcased some of the best African American college football players of the day,” according to the Ghosts of the Orange Bowl Facebook page. “The game also drew thousands of white fans, many came to see the famous Florida A&M marching band directed by Dr. William P. Foster.”
However, by the 1970s, the popularity of the OBC had declined significantly due to many of the top black athletes integrating into other institutions, along with conflicts with the Division IAA playoffs. After 45 years, the OBC tradition came to an end in 1978.
With so much history stemming from the OBC, the community of Miami Gardens takes special interest in re-establishing these traditions rooted in black history and is bringing the OBC back to Florida over Labor Day weekend to enhance and highlight HBCUs, black history, and our #OneBigCommunity. As explained on the OBC website, “The Orange Blossom Classic will attract thousands of fans, alumni, school members and family members from these respected communities with a goal to raise scholarship funds for the participating schools for years to come. Doing so, will help to support the knowledge and experience offered by the discipline, commitment and dedication it takes to be a Historically Black College & University student.”
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We asked Albany State University Head Coach, Gabe Giardina, how COVID-19 was impacting his players as we approach the Orange Blossom Classic. He said that although none of them are on campus anymore, they are doing Zoom meetings with the players two times a week to go over important core values that make you successful, academic counseling, and accountability to ensure the team is ready for the big game later this year. He believes keeping your mental health in check throughout this pandemic is just as important as your physical health. Follow Coach Gabe on Twitter as he posts and shares motivational information and workouts that can be done from home.
Tickets are available now, along with opportunities to support our OBC scholarships.. As the unknowns of COVID-19 continue to unfold and we see its ripple effects on our community, we feel moved to amplify our support of our #OneBigCommunity by telling the inspirational stories of the HBCUs and Miami Gardens history, moving forward with the OBC as a tradition rich in black history, and collecting donations for scholarships that benefit today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders. You can donate by clicking here or scanning the QR code below: