Few games from the world of FCS football receive much national exposure. Aside from The Game between Ivy League rivals Harvard and Yale, the most notable or recognizable FCS game each year may be the Bayou Classic, played in New Orleans between Grambling and Southern. The two schools have faced each other each season since 1974 and feature the most entertaining halftime show in college football with the battle of the bands. Despite the history and tradition of the game, organizers of the Bayou Classic could be looking to mix things up in the future.
According to a report by WWLTV.com, managers of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the host site for the Bayou Classic, have discussed potentially replacing Grambling as a participant. Low attendance by Grambling fans in recent years is to blame. Grambling has an enrollment of just under 5,000 students. It should be noted Southern has roughly double the enrollment of Grambling.
“If Grambling has fallen off that bad, maybe Southern could take the lead and it could be an earned-in game and bring in somebody else,” said Robert Bruno, the commissioner of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District. “I just don’t know if Grambling can carry the load.”
The 2011 Bayou Classic saw a crowd of 40,175 attend the game. That marked the lowest attendance for the game in 38 years. From 2000 through 2004 the game had an average attendance of 70,198 fans, before Hurricane Katrina blew through the area. The game has rebounded with attendance since Katrina though, although the numbers continue to trend downward. The 2012 game saw just 32,000 fans attend. Is Grambling to blame, and would replacing the Tigers with another program help reverse the attendance trend?
Grambling is coming off two dismal seasons and last year may have been the ultimate low point in the program’s history with players coming together to skip out on practices and forcing a boycott. Now, as the program looks to restore the pride that has been a part of the history of the school, the possibility of being replaced in one of the true iconic games on the football schedule would be a shame.
There could be a couple of different plans in the works for the Bayou Classic, including moving it from the annual post-Thanksgiving spot on the calendar. Would moving the game to the start of the season fix the attendance problem? It could, although it would fall even farther in the pecking order of games earlier in the season. Holding the game after Thanksgiving gives the game a chance to draw in a wider audience.
There has been no word on what school or schools have been considered as alternatives to Grambling, but for the sake of tradition here’s to hoping Grambling can convince the organizers to keep the school involved.