Central State wins on and off the field at annual HBCU Classic
Central State University played in the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday. More than thirteen thousand people watched them play Winston-Salem State in-person at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The game was also nationally televised on the NFL Network. University leaders said the football game was a culmination of a weekend full of events–tailgating, networking, fundraisers, college fairs–that make up an HBCU Classic.
HBCU Classics have attracted big sponsorships and national attention for a long time–the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic was no different. More recently, HBCUs have also seen a historic jump in enrollment.
ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith–a Winston-Salem State grad–previewed the classic during his midday show First Take.
“I’m not in New York City, I’m in Canton, Ohio, site of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic. you know what time it is, the sun is shining, it’s about HBCUs,” Smith said. “I love it. I love it. I love it. It’s about the battle of the bands as well. CSU, what you got for me?”
The Central State Invincible Marching Marauders got to play for about thirty seconds to a national audience. They performed throughout the weekend as well to alumni and prospective students, as did Central State’s Grammy nominated choir.
The classic also featured events meant for future HBCU students. Leading up to it, more than 22 Historically Black Colleges and Universities participated in a college fair with high-school students from Northeast Ohio.
Dr. Jack Thomas, Central State’s President since 2020, spoke to reporters on the sideline during the game.
“We have high schools who come here and parents and alumni who bring their children here so that they can expose them to the HBCU spirit and the culture and the legacy of the institution,” Dr. Thomas said. “A lot of students will tell you, I'm coming to Central State University because I came there to visit when you had your classic.”
LaToya Turner is a 2009 Central State grad. She drove four hours to the game from Cincinnati with her son and niece. Turner’s niece is wearing a shirt that says “future HBCU student.” Turner is glad HBCUs are getting national attention and boosts in enrollment. She said its a recognition of their high-quality education, athletics and culture.
“HBCU's have been around since the 1800s and they are not just something that's like popping right now,” Turner said. “They’ve been popping, it’s just now getting exposure.”
On the field, Central State won 41-21. That was good news for coach Kevin Porter who is trying to renew a winning culture for the football program.
“I’m here to graduate kids and I’m here to win championships,” Porter said.
About fifteen of Central State’s players are from the Miami Valley. Freshman Linebacker Corwyn Hurt, who is from Miamisburg, played well. He recovered a fumble in a crucial moment of the game for the Marauders and got to wear the celebratory turnover glove.
Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.