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Central State To Play Rivalry Game At Ohio Stadium

A football sits in the foreground of a green field, with red and gold markings on the field.
Nick Novy
Central State
Central State practicing at their athletic facility in Wilberforce

John Pace, CEO and President of the event, says the Classic For Columbus is about much more than football.

This Saturday is the Classic for Columbus, the first annual football matchup between the Central State University Marauders and the Kentucky State Thorobreds. The game between the two Historically Black universities will kick off in Ohio Stadium at 3:00 p.m. WYSO’s Chris Welter spoke with John Pace, President and CEO of the event, and found out that the Classic for Columbus is about much more than football.

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):

Chris: How did the Classic for Columbus come to be?

John: Last March and April, when it became apparent that hospitality, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment were going to suffer greatly from Covid, some of the business leaders and I started talking about post Covid-19 economic recovery and what it might look like. As the discussion continued, we turned to tourism, we turned to commerce and economic development. The classic was brought up because it had had great success in the past in Cincinnati and Cleveland. Columbus just makes sense from a logistics standpoint and it is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. And the Ohio Stadium, it's a legendary venue. Any athlete, especially a football player, would love to play in the horseshoe.

Chris: So why Central State and why Kentucky State?

John: It's one of the oldest rivalry games. Both are in close proximity to central Ohio, which makes sense, and the fact that they both have large alumni groups in Ohio. So it's just going to be a great, exciting match up. Lots of rivalry, but lots of working together as well.

Chris: But the Classic for Columbus is about way more than just football, right?

John: Interestingly enough, football is not mentioned in our mission. The organization's mission is to promote education, economic development and diversity while raising funds for institutions of higher learning and scholarships. We do that through a number of community partners: fraternities, sororities, service organizations, civic and social organizations, government agencies. The game just offers a number of benefits. First of all, it offers an opportunity for inner city youth that are exposed to so many negative images about their communities and about themselves. It offers them an opportunity to come and see a stadium filled with accomplished, positive African-Americans who can serve as role models and mentors. It really brings the entire community together to really celebrate and validate some of these unsung student athletes from HBCUs.

Chris: So tell me more about the educational events this weekend?

John: Before the game, beginning at 9:00 a.m., we'll have the Battelle College Career and Community Fairthat is sponsored by the City of Columbus. Young people can come out and they will be able to visit over 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Then there will be about 40 employers out, some giving interviews and hiring right on the spot. Some of the young people who will come to Ohio State on Saturday to see this game, it might have been difficult to attract them to an educational event unless it was football and unless it has culture and entertainment. Then, there's the diversity factor. The classic is a fun event. It's meaningful, but it's fun. You can bring people together around fun, around sports, around music. The classic offers all of these things. So it helps us to bring the community together across race, socioeconomic status, across religion and even politics.

Chris: And you will also be giving $25,000 away for someone to use on a down payment for a house, right?

John: A Financial Literacy Home Ownership Seminar will be happening just before the game. We know that home ownership and that property ownership is one of the most utilized pathways to wealth. But here in the African-American community and the Brown community, some people are not as informed as we should be about it. We want to provide that information so we decided let's really create some excitement by giving away twenty five thousand dollars.

Chris: And then what about the battle of the bands?

John: The bands are a staple and the focal point of any historically black college and university classic. One part of the marching band experience is the drum line, where the drum sections go head to head. There's going to be a high school battle of the bands, bands from across Ohio: Columbus City schools, Euclid, Maple Heights. So you'll want to come out and see the high school battle of the bands as well. It's a unique experience: great musicians, great dancers, great choreography, high energy. That's what you'll see. The invitation that we extend to the entire community, not just African-Americans, but the entire community, is to experience college football in the African-American tradition with great food, good people and nonstop entertainment.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.