Howard vs. Morehouse: A Victory for DC

The AT&T Nation's Football Classic was an event three years in the making -- and a success by any measure.

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Howard's Showtime marching band, 159 strong, went first and performed for 10 minutes. The biggest rise came when a rotund clarinet player got his groove on near the end, busting a split just before the band exited the field. Morehouse's House of Funk marching band, with 110 members, represented well, too, getting the crowd going with a rendition of "Doing the Butt."

Musical appetites were whet during a pregame concert featuring Brand Nubian, Nice & Smooth and Biz Markie. D.C. native and Grammy-nominated singer Raheem DeVaughn sang the national anthem, while D.C. native and rising artist Alison Carney sang "Lift Every Voice." D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (a Howard grad) performed the ceremonial coin toss, with a friendly wager riding on the game. Gray would have treated Reed to lunch at D.C.'s Ben's Chili Bowl had Morehouse won, but instead, Reed will treat for lunch at Atlanta's the Varsity.

No word on what, if anything, the school presidents wagered. But it's a safe bet that both of their institutions came out ahead for the experience. President of Howard Sidney A. Ribeau and Morehouse President Robert M. Franklin made intellectual rigor part of the Classic weekend, putting together a daylong symposium entitled "Beyond the Stereotypes -- Academics, Athletics, Character and Black Male Achievement," as well as an H.U. versus Morehouse student debate that drew about 1,500 people. The United Negro College Fund got involved, too, sponsoring a college showcase and recruitment fair at the D.C. Convention Center that attracted college-bound students and their parents from around the city.

"Dr. Franklin and Dr. Ribeau were very, very serious about ensuring that the academic part of this rivalry was highlighted," Moses said. "We threw it in and embraced it because we agreed with them that we should highlight that. But they put it all together."

From the symposium to the college fair to the Kickoff Rally featuring Sean "Diddy" Combs and Jermaine Dupri; from the debate to the networking receptions to the parties; from the fan festival to the game to the numerous celebrities in attendance -- it all came together for the AT&T Nation's Football Classic.

"Sitting here now, it feels great," Moses said. "Seeing all the people makes it seem tangible. People are in town because of what we talked about three years ago and tried to bring to fruition. It was a game whose time had come and needed to happen."

Deron Snyder, an award-winning journalist who covers sports, politics and pop culture, lives in Washington, D.C., and can be reached at deron@blackdoorventures.com.

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