FAMU vs. Bethune-Cookman is always a classic

When it comes to the black college football classics, there's none bigger than the annual Florida Classic between longtime rivals Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman College. FAMU has annually ranked among NCAA Division I-AA's leading teams in home attendance since the division was formed in 1978.

However, the Rattlers have gone a step further in recent years, having combined with the Wildcats to have the best-attended game in Division I-AA each of the past three years. The classic, which will be played at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Saturday (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET), has drawn more than 70,000 fans the past seven years -- topped by a crowd of 73,358 in 2003. That surpassed the famed Bayou Classic featuring Grambling State and Southern.

Second-year Rattlers coach Rubin Carter received a good taste of the rivalry last year. Carter learned very quickly how big this contest is to the fans.

"Well, this is the game," Carter said. "Before you start the season in September, everybody is talking about you playing your last game in November, and November is here.

"This game carries with it a lot of hype. There is a lot of excitement to it, and certainly our players look forward to playing in a game like this. Certainly the atmosphere, the setting, 75,000-plus alumni, fans and friends in the stadium creates that kind of atmosphere. We are getting ready to play in really the biggest game of the year."

Neither BCC (5-5 overall, 3-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) nor FAMU (6-4, 4-3) will be headed to postseason play. In fact, the Wildcats are coming into the classic with a two-game losing streak and are trying to avoid a losing season.

The Rattlers were crushed by MEAC powerhouse Hampton, 59-17, this past week. They want to bounce back and finish the season on a high note. Despite the records, it's still a major showdown for the two Florida schools.

"It's a great contest for both teams," BCC coach Alvin Wyatt said. "Both schools really benefit from the classic. We look forward to playing in this event every year. It's truly an exciting event. It's something that if you have not been a part of, you need to be a part of.

"While I have not been able to enjoy some of the things around it because of the competition on Saturday, I understand that it is a great place to be and it is something you won't want to miss."

HBCU notes
" Hampton RB Alonzo Coleman was selected as the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week. Coleman ran for more than 180 yards for the second consecutive week, with 181 yards and four touchdowns against Florida A&M.

" Endor Cooper, Howard defensive end, was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. Cooper recorded five sacks to help the Bison shut out Bethune-Cookman, 28-0, while limiting BCC to 158 yards of total offense.

" Alabama A&M QB Kelcy Luke was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week. Luke completed 17 of 26 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns in the 35-26 victory over Alcorn State.

" Chris Dupuy, Alabama State linebacker, was selected the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week. Dupuy had 15 total tackles (11 solo) with two tackles for loss, an interception, 1 sacks and a forced fumble in the Hornets' 25-20 win over Mississippi Valley State.

" Arkansas-Pine Bluff clinched its first SWAC championship game berth by defeating host Southern 45-20 in front of 9,778 fans at A.W. Mumford Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

" Alabama A&M took care of its business by defeating Alcorn State, then got the help it needed to clinch the SWAC Eastern Division when Alabama State knocked off Mississippi Valley State. With the combination of a win and a Valley loss, the Bulldogs are headed back to the SWAC title game to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 16.

" Nevin McCaskill, Hampton offensive tackle, played a huge role in Coleman's outstanding rushing game against Florida A&M. McCaskill was the lead blocker on three of the Pirates' seven touchdown runs, allowing Coleman to go untouched on scoring runs of 44 and 31 yards.

" Kurt Elden, Delaware State's backup quarterback, stepped in for injured Vashon Winton and had a terrific game against Norfolk State. Elden was 9-of-14 for 115 yards. He also had 67 total yards on 14 rushing attempts, including three touchdowns.

Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune.