HBCU Football Returns to the Detroit Metro as Bowie State Visits Saginaw Valley State

In the vast array of college football games on this weekend’s slate, there are several games across all levels that pundits will discuss. One game that not many are discussing is Bowie State’s road test against Saginaw Valley State.

Bowie State is the class of the CIAA, making the Division II playoffs four times in a row since 2017, with three CIAA titles in that span. Saginaw Valley State also has a solid team that went 7-4 last season. Both schools won their opening games with Bowie State ranking #9 in the AFCA Division II poll, and Saginaw State receiving votes. Bowie State won last year’s meeting at home by a score of 28-19.

Despite both schools’ impressive resumes, there will be plenty of fanfare surrounding the game that will extend past what happens on the field as Saginaw Valley State has several events planned before the game. The school has billed the game as a celebration of HBCUs.

The same could be big for the Detroit area as the Motor City was once a hub for HBCU football. Saginaw Valley State is only about 90 minutes from Detroit. From 2003-2006, Ford Field hosted the Detroit Football Classic. Listed below are the matchups and attendance:

  • 2003: Florida A&M vs. Alabama State; 54,951
  • 2004: Howard vs Alabama State; 45,713
  • 2005: Hampton vs Jackson State; 25,737
  • 2006: Delaware State vs Florida A&M; 29,713

In 2020, the Detroit Football Classic was supposed to return with a matchup between Southern and Tennessee State, but as we all know, COVID-19 had other plans and the Classic is still on hold.

If the Saginaw Valley State-Bowie State game is a success, it is reasonable to see the Detroit Football Classic coming back in a modified fashion. While playing an HBCU Classic at Ford Field may be a tall task, other venues would make sense.

One possible venue is United Soccer League member Detroit City FC’s home field, Keyworth Stadium, in Hamtramck, a nearby suburb. Keyworth seats 7,933 and could easily accommodate an HBCU classic with Saginaw Valley State or another school in the Detroit metro like Wayne State playing as the de facto home team.

Another venue is Eastern Michigan’s Rynearson Stadium. Surprisingly, the Eagles’ home has hosted an HBCU Classic before. In 1994, Morehouse and Fort Valley State played at the former home of the Detroit Wheels. (Found this fact in Mark Pollak’s wonderful book, The Playing Grounds of College Football 1869 to Today). Rynearson seats about 30,000 so costs to use the facility should not be too high and the stadium will not look too empty if the game does not sell out.

After the Saginaw Valley State-Bowie State game, the Michigan MAC schools may more frequently schedule HBCUs. The tradition of the HBCUs makes them a bigger draw than some of the FCS schools that the Michigan MAC schools have played recently such as Monmouth and Central Connecticut State.

Some may see Saginaw Valley State-Bowie State as just another Division II game, but it has the potential to rejuvenate interest in HBCU Football in the Detroit area.

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