Circle City Classic doesn’t rule out return of football in 2023

Circle City Classic
Jackson State University cheerleaders participate in the 2019 Circle City Classic Parade. (IBJ file photo)

This year’s Circle City Classic organized by Indiana Black Expo will include no football game featuring historically Black colleges and universities for just the second time since the event was founded in 1984. The only other year was in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, Lucas Oil Stadium will host a battle of five HBCU marching bands followed by a step competition among fraternities and sororities on Sept. 24.

Tanya Bell Mckinzie, Indiana Black Expo’s president and CEO, told IBJ that it should not be assumed that football games will not be part of future Circle City Classic weekends.

“As it relates to future Classics, IBE leadership has not made a decision to exclude football,” Mckinzie said. “This year, a decision was made to showcase HBCU bands and the ‘Divine Nine’ sororities and fraternities.”

Three of the five participating bands have been announced: Miles College of Fairfield, Alabama; Kentucky State University of Frankfort, Kentucky; and Talladega College of Talladega, Alabama.

The “Divine Nine” are nine members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council for Black fraternities and sororities: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.

Tickets for the 3 p.m. event, priced $20 to $50, are available at ticketmaster.com.

Attendance at Circle City Classic football games has been in decline in recent years.

While more than 20,000 spectators gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium each year from 2013 through 2017, games in 2018, 2019 and 2021 attracted dwindling crowds of 19,172, 10,345 and 8,122, respectively.

Circle City Classic football game attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium since 2012:

2012: North Carolina Central vs. South Carolina State, 18,000
2013: Alcorn State vs. Grambling State, 22,357
2014: Kentucky State vs. Central State, 26,480
2015: Kentucky State vs. Central State, 22,523
2016: Kentucky State vs. Central State, 21,024
2017: Kentucky State vs. Central State, 21,187
2018: Howard vs. Bethune-Cookman, 19,172
2019: Jackson State vs. Kentucky State, 10,345
2020: No game because of the pandemic
2021: Benedict College vs. Kentucky State 8,122

More than 20 HBCU “classic” games, earning the designation because of historic rivalries or neutral competition sites, will be played this fall—primarily in southern states.

With no Circle City Classic game in 2022, the only Midwest “classic” on the schedule is the St. Louis River City HBCU Football Classic. Alabama A&M will play Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Oct. 16.

Meanwhile, the Circle City Classic will continue its tradition of a downtown parade. On Sept. 24, the parade route will include Pennsylvania Street from Vermont Street south to Ohio Street; Ohio Street west to Meridian Street; and Meridian Street north to New York Street.

And music fans can support HBCUs by attending the Circle City Classic cabaret fundraiser at the Indiana Convention Center. Jodeci and Bell Biv DeVoe, two chart-topping acts from the 1990s, will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 23.

Tickets, $79 to $150, are available at ticketmaster.com.

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