The “real HU”? For another year, at least, it’s Hampton University.
Legacy, scholarship and tradition collided once again during the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic at RFK Stadium in southeast D.C. on Saturday, Sept. 17, as two esteemed historically black universities — Hampton and Howard — took to the gridiron for bragging rights as the true “HU,” with Hampton coming out on top for the second year in a row, 34-7.
But as many in attendance would attest, the event was less about the game itself than the atmosphere.
Howard freshman Julian Cook, a political science major from Chicago, said he wasn’t expecting much from the football team, but the experience overshadows the loss.
“It was really cool, it was cool seeing the fake HU, too,” Cook said. “I’m glad I came to this, because you’re going to regret not going if you don’t. It’s like a rite of passage and a tradition that everyone should experience, and it’s the whole Howard vs. Hampton rivalry, so you have to go to at least one game.”
The Nation’s Classic, organized by Events DC, began in 2011 to celebrate the passion and tradition of the college football experience, particularly the heritage and culture of black institutions.
Before the game Saturday, students from each school participated in debates, forums, tailgating and a Pepsi-sponsored block party featuring dozens of vendors, games and food trucks. Rap legend Doug E. Fresh also hosted a DJ competition, where an aspiring mixer from each institution competed and received advice from the beat-boxing icon.
Other notable appearances included Washington Wizards guard John Wall, Cecil Newton, father of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, and comedian Rickey Smiley.
Both bands during halftime paid homage to old-school musicians such as Earth, Wind and Fire and the Gap Band.
Traci Bronner, a supporter of Hampton University who lives in Atlanta, thought the song selections for the halftime performance couldn’t have been better.
“It was an excellent presentation,” Bronner said. “I enjoyed both bands at halftime. It was good to see the bands honor musicians from the past. Even if a younger child doesn’t know that particular music, they’ll know that there is a reason for the music being played.”
Bigger than the game, she believes the weekend of school spirit events lifts the morale of the students and the community.
“It was so good to see young people who are students having fun sharing in the camaraderie,” she said. “It helps them to understand their legacy and gives them reinforcement of why they attend an HBCU.”