XENIA —It seemed like a great idea for both groups.
Curtis Symonds’ Historically Black Colleges and Universities Television Network, Inc. was looking for a way to develop some publicity to the fledgling digital television network HBCUX, and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism was looking for a way to increase its tourism traffic in the fall months.
The answer for both? Play some college football!
Through a friend of a friend of a friend, Symonds, who happens to be a 1973 graduate of Xenia High School and a 1978 grad from Central State University, met with the Bahamas ministry of tourism.
“The Bahamas, during the months of September through December, are slow in terms of tourism. So they were trying to figure out a way to draw more tourists to the island during that period,” Symonds, now the Chief Executive Officer of the HBCUX Network, explained. “So we suggested doing a Black College football game. Nobody’s really done that in a while in the Caribbean, and the ministry thought it was a great idea.”
And so the 2014 Bahamas HBCUX Classic was born.
On Sept. 13, the Marauders of Central State will take on the Tigers of Texas Southern University for a college football game at the 15,000-seat Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas. The game will be the first of a three-year deal between HBCUX and the Bahamian tourism ministry.
“The Bahamas HBCUX Classic not only supports our goal to bring more people to our beautiful islands, but Bahamians can experience American football at home, and gain insight into what two Historical Black College and Universities (HCBUs) have to offer should one decide to continue their education in the United States,” said Harrison Thompson, the Permanent Secretary for the Bahamas Ministry of Financial Services in a statement.
The game was originally supposed to be a Marauders home game, but Symonds said both teams had no problem with moving the game from tiny Wilberforce, Ohio to a tropical island instead.
At a press conference earlier this month, both schools offered up six full-ride scholarships — three from each school — that will be made available to prospective Bahamian students.
When the game became a reality, Symonds couldn’t help but do what he could to get his alma mater involved.
“As an alumni, and I played basketball at Central State and grew up on the campus (where his parents both worked), I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to do my first football game with Central State. It’s a great opportunity to put Central State on a bigger stage,” Symonds said. “I hope that the exposure will drive more students, from the Caribbean and other places, into getting a better look at what’s happening at Central State University.”
As part of the weekend’s fun, a career day event will take place on the Friday before the game, with a Beach Party at the famed Atlantis Hotel on Friday night. A tailgate party will happen before Saturday’s 5 p.m. football game, and a Battle of the Bands will take place between Texas Southern and CSU afterward.
The HBCUX digital network, which can be found online at hbcux.com, will handle all the airfare, hotel costs and food for the two schools’ teams and their marching bands.
This will be the third time HBCUs have played a football game in the Bahamas. Bethune Cookman played in the two previous games, beating Morris Brown in the 1991 Conch Bowl, and defeating Morgan State in 2000.
The HBCUX Network’s website (hbcux.com) and the network’s game site (hbcuxclassic.com) offer three- and four-day travel packages for the September 2014 event.