Tuskegee-Alabama State Renew Rivalry Brings Families Together

September 3, 2017 Off By Michael
Jonah McCutcheon

Jonah McCutcheon, Tuskegee Senior Defensive Back from Mobile, Alabama intercepted a pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown in Tuskegee’s 14-6 win over Alabama State in the first Labor Day Classic.
Photo: Tuskegee University Football Program

They have not met on the gridiron since 2012. That year Alabama State University christened its new stadium with their 61st loss to it’s intrastate rival.

The two schools are about 35 miles apart. They started playing football against each other on Thanksgiving Day back in 1924. The series continued with minor interruptions for 88 years.

Because the two schools competed on Thanksgiving Day, Tuskegee was prevented from accepting an invitation to participate in the NCAA Division II playoffs. So the two historic Black universities in Alabama ended their athletic relationship.

Alumni from both schools wanted to renew the rivalry and worked with their respective schools until a plan could be developed to bring the game back.

When the two schools determined that they had an open date during the Labor Day weekend, a four year deal was struck which gave the schools a chance to start another historic tradition.

Larry Sankey expressed his regrets when the game was cancelled in 2012.

“When I was growing up, ” Sankey a native of Abbeville, Alabama about 100 miles south of Montgomery said, “we would drive over to Montgomery’s Crampton Bowl to watch the Turkey Day Classic, then drive back home and have Thanksgiving Dinner.”

Sankey grew up to enroll into school at the historic Tuskegee University. He recalled that the Turkey Day Classic was the big social event for many Black Alabamians during the 20th century.

“I’m glad the game is back,” said Tracy Larkin, a veteran on the Montgomery City Council.

“It always was a boost to the local economy, especially for mom and pop businesses in the arts and crafts and food service enterprises,” Larkin added.

Larkin a graduate of Alabama State University stated “There is a buzz in Montgomery this week that has been lacking for the last four years. The people are really talking about this game and are happy that the schools worked it out.”

“Around mid-day on Saturday my family will be here from out of town,” said W. J. Fluker a resident of Montgomery. He taught at both his alma mater, Alabama State University and Tuskegee University, where he retired after 40 years on the Tuskegee faculty.

Fluker grew up in Talladega, Alabama. He added, “By dinner time, my wife’s family from the Eufaula area will be here. We will probably have to serve dinner on the outside to accommodate all the family members who will be here for the game.”

Tuskegee won the game 14-6 in a defensive battle with it’s Division I opponent. Tuskegee leads the series 62-34-4. The win increases Tuskegee’s total wins to 639, the most wins by any HBCU (Historically Black College and University) in the history of Black College football.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com