Livingstone College

Livingstone readies for 125th anniversary of black college football celebration

SALISBURY – Now that homecoming is over at Livingstone College, the school is readying for another special celebration this weekend.

The Commemorative Classic football game will be played at 1 p.m. on Nov. 4 at Livingstone and will mark the 125th anniversary of black college football in America.

One hundred and 25 years ago, Livingstone College awaited the arrival of Johnson C. Smith University (then Biddle Memorial Institute), who traveled by horse and buggy to Salisbury to play football.

But it wasn’t just any game. That contest, held on a snowy Dec. 27, 1892, on the front lawn of Livingstone College, was the first black intercollegiate football game.
In 2009, the two schools decided to start an annual Commemorative Classic football game to honor the inaugural matchup. The classic is the last football game of the regular season with location now alternating between the two campuses.
“How fitting that on this 125th anniversary, the game will be played where it all started – on the campus of Livingstone College,” said Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., Livingstone College president.
The original Livingstone team was formally organized in the fall of 1892 and included J.W. Walker (captain); W.J. Trent (manager), who later became the longest-serving president of Livingstone to date; R.J, Rencher; Henry Rives; C.N. Garland; J.R. Dillard; J.B.A. Yelverton; Wade Hampton; Charles H Patrick; J.J. Taylor; and F.H. Cummings.
According to the college newspaper’s 1930 edition, team members purchased a regulation football and uniforms, and the players equipped their street shoes with cleats, taking them off after practice. The young women of the school’s industrial department made the players’ uniforms.
The teams played two 45-minute halves with Trent scoring Livingstone’s only touchdown on a fumble recovery. Biddle argued that the fumble was recovered out of bounds as the snow had covered the field’s markings.
The official ruled in Biddle’s favor, allowing them to keep the 5-0 lead and giving them the victory.
“We’re always optimistic about the game,” said Coach Andre Springs, Livingstone’s athletic director. “But this is more than a game. The Commemorative Classic pays homage to those original teams that started a tradition of black college football in this country that has made a positive difference and blazed a mighty trail for student athletes.”
Livingstone College will kick off its celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 1, with a student pep rally, followed by an alumni reception on Nov. 2 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Hilliard Room of the Hood Building on campus.
On Friday, Nov. 3, the annual Commemorative Classic Hall of Fame banquet will be held at the Livingstone College School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts, located at 530 South Jake Alexander Blvd, when each school will induct a former player into the Commemorative Classic Hall of Fame.
Special guests at the banquet will include Marques Fitch, executive director of the Black College Football Hall of Fame, and CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams.
The game kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, followed by a Battle of the Bands between Livingstone and JCSU.
Gov. Roy Cooper, the City of Salisbury and the County of Rowan have all approved proclamations declaring this 125th anniversary as one warranted for great pomp and circumstance.
“We encourage alumni, fans and friends of Livingstone to return to campus this weekend to help us celebrate this historic milestone in our college’s history,” Jenkins said. “This is great for our county, city and state as national attention has already been generated on this game. We invite everyone to Livingstone’s campus – the birthplace of black college football – in celebrating this significant 125th anniversary on Nov. 4.”

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