It is a battle for pride. It is a battle of honor. It is a battle for bragging rights, and really, that is what is most important here: bragging rights. One of the longest-standing rivalries between two of the oldest HBCUs will be settled with pigskin, pads and helmets, and the winning team and its fans get to say for a whole year that they are the AT&T Nation's Football Classic champs.
On Saturday the Bison of Howard University and the Maroon Tigers of Morehouse College meet on the gridiron for the fourth installment at Washington, D.C.'s RFK Stadium.
"I remember the game in the 1980s when Spike Lee, Sidney Poitier and Miss America were around," Henry Goodgame, Morehouse Class of 1985, told the Washington Informer. "It was awesome. It was the biggest thing for both institutions."
"I didn't realize the magnitude of the game until I stepped on the field for the first time and Spike Lee was there for the coin toss," Howard alum and four-year NFL quarterback Jay "Sky" Walker told WTOP.com of his 1992 performance in which Howard lost 7-0. Howard alumni would be quick to spout that the game, which was played in Atlanta, featured monsoonlike conditions and that after Morehouse scored, those conditions worsened.
But that is what rivalries create, along with gamesmanship and sport; they lend themselves to storytelling and legacy. This is institutional rivalry that is handed down through generations. So one cannot be in a "Real HU" family as a "Morehouse Man." It doesn't work, and on Saturday a rivalry dating all the way to 1932 (Howard won that meeting 10-0) and minus a few layoffs due to Morehouse's (Division II) inability to keep up with Howard's (Division I) players (no shade), Saturday will start a new yearlong legacy of bragging rights.
"Off the field, the big thing between Morehouse and Howard has always been, 'Who is the powerhouse as far as education, a Morehouse man or a Howard man?'" former Howard running back Harvey Reed told Afro.com. "As far as football goes, we just play the game."
As it stands, Howard leads the rivalry 24-10-2, and this year marks the 37th time the two teams have faced off. Howard will be looking for its first win of the season after losing its first two games to powerhouses Akron and Rutgers, while Morehouse comes to D.C. on a winning streak, having won its first game of the season against Edward Waters College.
Although this Saturday will end the four-game installment of the rivalry, which was renewed in 2011, word has it that talks are already in the works for a 2015 matchup in Atlanta.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is associate editor of news at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.