Magic City Classic
- This article is about the annual college football game. For the multi-high school football event, see BCS Kick-Off Classic.
The Magic City Classic (currently the State Farm Magic City Classic) is an annual football game between Alabama's two largest, historically black universities: Alabama A&M University (AAMU, in Huntsville) and Alabama State University (ASU, in Montgomery). In recent years the game and its associated events have been produced by the non-profit Alabama Sports Council (ASC) and managed by its affiliate Eventive Sports. The executive director for the event is Faye Oates.
The first game between the two schools was played in 1924. It has been an uninterrupted, annual tradition since 1945 and played at Legion Field in Birmingham since 1946. Alabama A&M enjoys a 42-39-3 all-time advantage.
In addition to the actual game, the event is known for a glamorous parade and a raucous "Battle of the Bands" between the respective schools' marching bands. Other events include a kickoff luncheon, pre-game entertainment, and abundant weekend tailgating outside the stadium. The Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated that, in 2011, the event had a reported $24.3 million economic impact for the area.
In 2018 Mayor Randall Woodfin negotiated a four-year contract to keep the game at Legion Field through 2022. Payments from the City to each institution would increase yearly from $212,500 in 2018 to $400,000 in the final year of the contract. The two schools lobbied to continue holding the game at Legion Field even after Protective Stadium opened, due to the greater number of seats, more accommodations for tailgating, and for its positive impact on the city's western neighborhoods. Under a new contract continuing through 2026, the city pays each school $500,000 per year to participate.
In February 2023 the Jefferson County Commission discussed contributing $750,000 to the ASC to expand the fan experience at the event, and also providing additional public payments to the universities. The Commission cut the appropriation to $500,000 when it was approved. Without guarantees for the promised funding in future years, Alabama A&M declined to sign a 4-year contract with ASC and created its own "task force" to secure sponsors and manage operations of "major games", including the Magic City Classic. In September of that year, AAMU demanded that ASC and Eventive not make use its trademarks. The university and ASC reached an agreement in early October.
October 30: The 81st Magic City Classic kicked off at 2:30 PM kick-off at Legion Field, and was streamed nationally on ESPN+. The Hornets, behind two touchdowns at halftime, came from behind with a 21-3 margin in the second half to beat the Bulldogs 24-17.
Rapper Big Boi was named the celebrity ambassador for the Classic. He performed a post-game concert at Legion Field.
The Southwest Athletic Conference postponed its fall 2020 sports season to Spring of 2021 due to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. The game was played on a cool, sunny Saturday afternoon in April before a limited crowd. No parade, concerts or large-scale tailgating accompanied the event.
Alabama A&M, boosted by three second-half touchdown throws from senior quarterback Aqeel Glass, won the game, 38-14.
October 26: The 78th Magic City Classic kicked off at 2:30 PM kick-off at Legion Field, and was broadcast nationally on ESPN3. The game went into triple overtime, with Alabama A&M pulling off a 43–41 victory.
Shaquille O'Neal was named the celebrity ambassador for the Classic, although he could not attend due to the death of his stepsister. The post-game concert was headlined by 2 Chainz.
The event's celebrity ambassador was actor Don Cheadle. The pre-game tailgate party featured 8Ball & MJC, and DJ Traci Steele. The kickoff concert featured performances by Faith Evans, Alvin Garrett, Yung Vokalz, Just A Few Cats, and Keke Wyatt. Saxophonist Mike Phillips performed the national anthem, and the emcee for the event was FunnyMaine. A post-game concert was headlined by Gucci Mane. Actor Emanuel Lewis also attended as a gameday guest.
October 28: The 76th anniversary game kicked off at 2:30 PM at Legion Field, and was broadcast nationally on ESPN3. Rickey Smiley was the game's celebrity ambassador, and comedian FunnyMaine hosted a pre-game warmup and served as in-game emcee.
The Birmingham City Council approved a funding request for $665,944, including $200,000 payouts for each team, $138,075 to Vectour Group for shuttle service, temporary barricades, and staging for the postgame outdoor concert. The pre-game tailgate party featured performances by Do or Die, Lil Scrappy, Trinidad Cardona, 24 Hours, Symplicity, Sammie, Joyce Irby from Klymaxx, and Route 5.
October 29: The 75th anniversary game kicked off at 3:00 PM at Legion Field and was broadcast nationally on ESPN3. The Alabama A&M Bulldogs defeated Alabama State 42-41 in overtime in front of a record 70,813 fans.
Rapper Ludacris served as the event's celebrity ambassador and rode the lead float in the morning's parade, then performed a post-game concert at Legion Field. Yung Joc also appeared in the parade, which was broadcast locally by WBRC 6.
The City of Birmingham spent $1.3 million in support of the event. That total included $163,750 payouts to each of the competing universities, $147,825 to Vectour Group for transportation shuttles, $47,500 for entertainment, $27,000 for advertising and promotions, and $600,715 in personnel expenses, including overtime for Birmingham Police Department officers, Birmingham Department of Public Works employees, and Legion Field staff members.
"Black-ish" producer and star Anthony Anderson served as the event's celebrity ambassador and rode the lead McDonald's float in the morning's parade. R&B group Jagged Edge performed a post-game concert at Legion Field.
October 25: Alabama A&M (2-5) came from behind to win 37 - 36 before an announced crowd of 67,710. Alabama State (4-3) had led for the entire game, starting with quarterback Daniel Duhart's two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter. The Hornets answered early in the second quarter when tailback Harvey Harris punched it in from 2 yards out, but A&M fumbled Nick Carden's punt later in the quarter and Bulldogs receiver DeMario Bell returned it seven yards to increase the lead to 20-7 at the half.
Both teams scored twice in the third quarter. In the fourth, A&M held the Hornets to just one field goal while scoring ten more points to come within five. With two and a half minutes remaining, Bulldogs quarterback Jaymason Lee connected with Tevin McKenzie for a 49-yard score. Their 2-point conversion failed, giving them a 1-point lead while ASU mounted a final drive. A holding call negated an apparent touchdown, then Preston Clark missed a 30-yard field goal attempt with twelve seconds remaining to end the game.
Malcolm Cyrus led Alabama State's rushing attack with 148 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries while Duhart spread the ball around to eight different receivers, amassing 267 yards in the air. All three of his scores, though, were quarterback runs. Lee racked up 319 passing yards, favoring O'Darius Williams who had seven catches for 109 yards. Harris split carries with Brandon Eldemire, who led A&M rushers with 120 yards.
Hip-Hop group Bell Biv Devoe served as the event's celebrity ambassadors and rode the lead McDonald's float in the morning's parade. The post-game tailgating scene outside Legion Field was interrupted by a parking lot shooting which injured a teenage girl.
October 26: Alabama State won 31 - 7 before an announced crowd of 63,113 at Legion Field. The 6-2 Hornets went ahead in the second quarter with touchdown passes from Daniel Duhart to Jarrett Neely and DeMario Bell and held the 2-6 Bulldogs scoreless through three quarters, helped along by three A&M turnovers, including a fumble at the Bulldogs' 1 yard line and blocked field goal attempt. Duhart was named Offensive MVP for his 13-26, 297 yard, 3 touchdown performance while running back Malcolm Cyrus picked up 138 yards on 17 carries. ASU's Earl Lucas pulled down five of Duhart's passes for 94 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown.
Rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube served as the event's celebrity ambassador, and was joined during the game by former ambassadors Bootsy Collins and LisaRaye McCoy. Rapper V.I.C. hosted a "World's Largest Wobble" event inside the stadium before the 2:30 kickoff Morris Day and the Time performed a post-game concert at Legion Field. Free shuttle service was provided from parking areas at the Birmingham Crossplex and the BJCC. The Birmingham Police Department assigned 84 officers to secure the parade route, 212 to oversee traffic and parking around Legion Field, and 116 to work inside the stadium during the game. Before the game, it was announced the contract was extended through 2018 to keep the game at Legion Field.
October 27: Alabama State won 31-13. Hornets quarterback Greg Jenkins thew for a season-high 264 yards against the Bulldogs' defense, which had allowed an average of only 147 passing yards per game. Star running backs Isaiah Crowell (ASU) and Kaderius Lacey (A&M) were both held to modest yardage, but each scored twice. Musician Bootsy Collins served as the event's ambassador. Former NFL receiver John Stallworth participated in several events. Frankie Beverly and Maze performed a post-game concert at Legion Field.
October 29: Alabama A&M edged out a 20-19 win over #1 ranked Alabama State by blocking a Bobby Wenzig extra point with 9:55 left in the game. A&M forced three turnovers and knocked ASU quarterback Greg Jenkins out of the game with a hip injury. The Bulldogs' Most Valuable Player on offense was Kaderius Lacey who amassed 187 yards on the ground and helped run out the clock in the Bulldogs' final drive. The crowd was announced at 66,473.
The 8:00 AM parade, utilizing the same route as the previous year, was held in cool, clear weather and stretched for two hours with marching bands from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee participating. Alabama State was announced as the winner of the "Battle of the Bands" after a fan vote.
Actress LisaRaye McCoy served as ambassador for the event. The Steve Harvey Morning Show came back to sample tailgate barbecue. Frankie Beverly and Maze performed a post-game concert at Legion Field and numerous other performers filled area clubs for the week preceding the event. The post-game concert and its staging, lump sum payments to the participating schools, and bus transportation from International Trailways were the largest of a number of game expenses funded by the City of Birmingham, totaling over $600,000. After the game, the Birmingham City Council accused Mayor William Bell of skirting rules that require Council approval of expenditures exceeding $10,000. Bell argued that a Council resolution declaring that the game serves a public purpose gave his office blanket authority to apply public funds to the event at his discretion.
October 30: Alabama State defeated Alabama A&M 31-10 behind the running of Andrew Pitts, who amassed 122 yards on just six carries. Andrew Lyons opened the scoring for the Bulldogs with a 41-yard field goal early. T. C. McWilliams caught an 18-yard scoring pass from State QB Devin Dominguez with 4 seconds left in the 1st quarter to build the lead to 10. Dominguez ran in a score from the 1 in the second quarter. A&M finally got on the board with 52 seconds left in the half as Chance Wilson chipped in a 27-yard field goal.
Pitts scored on a 47-yard carry early in the 3rd, followed by Donovan Masline's 40-yard return of a Justin Jones interception to give State a 31-3 lead. Jones added a touchdown pass to G'Alonzo Milton in the 4th for the final score. Attendance was 61,879 and each school took home a record payout of $400,000.
Gubernatorial candidates Doctor Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks both made appearances at the game. The 8:00 AM parade started at the southwest corner of the BJCC and proceeded down 19th Street to 4th Avenue North, west to 16th Street, north two blocks, then along 6th Avenue North back to 18th Street, ending at 8th Avenue North.
Talk show host Wendy Williams served as ambassador for the event. The Steve Harvey Morning Show came to the city with guest Eric Benet. Tom Joyner brought his morning show with the Bar-Kays and other guests. Rickey Smiley performed at the Alys Stephens Center and numerous other performers filled area clubs for the weekend.
October 31: Alabama A&M defeated Alabama State 21-7. A&M's freshman quarterback Deaunte Mason connected with wide receiver Thomas Harris for a 57-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Mason was named offensive MVP, and his teammate, junior linebacker Afu Okosun, was defensive MVP. The 5-3 Bulldogs moved into a first-place tie in the SWAC's East Division with Jackson State at 2-2. Attendance was reported at 55,322.
This was the first year with State Farm as the game's title sponsor.
October 25: Alabama A&M defeated Alabama State 17-16 with the key being the Bulldogs four interceptions of Hornets quarterback Anthony Speight. Ulysses Banks rushed for one touchdown, Kevin Atkins completed a 4-yard pass to Rashad Johnson for another, and Jeremy Licea added a 29-yard field goal to account for A&M's scoring. Speight threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Darius Mathis and a 15-yarder to Nicholas Andrews to go with a 38-yard Jake King field goal. State failed to convert on a 2-point attempt for the win and Speight was intercepted for the fourth time with just over a minute remaining to close the game.
Attendance was reported at 69,113, setting a new record. Overall participation inside and outside the stadium was estimated at over 110,000. The title sponsor of the game was Food-World, with Pepsi as the presenting sponsor. In preparation for the event the city of Birmingham spent nearly $180,000 to increase the number of shuttle buses available to transport fans from 20 to 75, to have GameDay Management Group of Orlando, Florida manage them, and to offer rides free of charge. The improvements were well-received by fans.
Tom Joyner was the event's ambassador and Vivica Fox was grand marshal of the parade. Joyner and Steve Harvey both broadcast their radio shows live from Birmingham on the day of the game.
October 27: Alabama A&M won 13-9. The Bulldogs held the Hornets to 1 out of 12 conversions on third down, and intercepted quarterback Chris Mitchell on a potential game-winning drive in the last two minutes. The crowd was announced at 68,953, a record.1.
Sinbad was the Magic City Classic Ambassador. Gridlock traffic and long waits at shuttle stops were harshly criticized.
October 29: Alabama A&M came from behind to win 31-28 in an offensive showcase front of 68,238 fans, the largest crowd ever at a Magic City Classic. Quarterback Kelcy Luke rushed for the final touchdown with 2:41 remaining.
The Grand Marshal and Ambassador was LL Cool J. Terry Cummings spoke at the kick-off luncheon, and Da Backwudz performed the pre-game show.
Alabama State came from behind to mark a 24-20 victory in front of 65,312 at Legion Field. With A&M leading 20-7 in the 3rd quarter, Bulldogs QB Kelcy Luke hurt his ankle while hobbled Hornets running back Keldrick Williams came back into the game, turning the momentum toward State. Williams scored the winning touchdown with 1:48 left. Hornets QB Tarvaris Jackson finished 24-53 with 298 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.
Magic Johnson was the Ambassador for the Magic City Classic. Ciara and Rickey Smiley were Grand Marshals for the parade. Ciara performed at the halftime show. Artur Davis addressed the kickoff luncheon, and Cornelius Bennett spoke at the team luncheon.
Alabama A&M won 20-17. Ruben Studdard served as Ambassador and Grand Marshal. Evander Holyfield spoke at the team luncheon, introduced by Cecil Fielder.
Alabama A&M won 23-20. John Stallworth served as Amabassador and Grand Marshal.
Alabama State won 35-0. Charles Barkley was the Magic City Classic ambassador. State was later forced by the NCAA to forfeit the victory due to ineligible players and what they termed a "lack of institutional control".1.
Alabama A&M won 34-27. Willie Mays was the Magic City Classic ambassador. With this game, the Alabama Sports Foundation began managing all aspects of it.
- According to Gene Hallman, the 1991 announced crowd of 70,200 was greatly exaggerated. (Melick & Gribble–2007)
- City of Birmingham-Legion Field (n.d.). http://ci.bham.al.us/legionfield/index.htm - retrieved October 30, 2006
- Melick, Ray and Andrew Gribble (October 28, 2007) "Magic City Classic notebook." The Birmingham News
- Williams, Roy L. (October 22, 2008) "Thousands heading to Birmingham for premier matchup." The Birmingham News
- Perrin, Mike (December 10, 2008) "NCAA hits Alabama State football program with postseason ban, forfeit of championship." The Birmingham News
- Beaudry, Paul (October 31, 2009) "Alabama A&M's Magic City Classic win puts Bulldogs in tie for division lead."The Birmingham News
- Piper, Ben (January 6, 2011) "Magic City Classic earns distinction" Birmingham Business Journal
- Williams, Roy L. (November 11, 2011) "Birmingham City Council questions some of city's $604,703 of spending on Magic City Classic game." The Birmingham News
- Tomberlin, Michael (November 12, 2011) "Magic City Classic economic impact tops $24 million, most ever." The Birmingham News
- Birdsong, Nick (October 27, 2013) "For the second straight year, the Hornets roll over the Bulldogs in their annual grudge march. The Birmingham News
- Edgemon, Erin (October 18, 2016) "Birmingham spending $1.35 million on Magic City Classic; here's where the money goes." The Birmingham News
- Patchen, Tyler (October 25, 2018) "Magic City Classic to stay in Birmingham through 2022." Birmingham Business Journal
- Johnson, Roy S. (April 18, 2021) "This semi-classic Magic City Classic was just what we needed as we ease out of isolation." The Birmingham News
- Johnson, Roy S. (July 23, 2022) "The future home of the Magic City Classic? It’s a no-brainer." The Birmingham News
- Johnson, Roy S. (November 12, 2022) "Alabama State, Alabama A&M presidents reach consensus on Magic City Classic future." The Birmingham News
- Maxie, Chasity (November 14, 2022) "Agreement reached to keep Magic City Classic at ‘The Old Gray Lady’." WBRC.com
- Johnson, Roy S. (November 28, 2022) "Birmingham City Council to vote on paying $1 million a year to keep Magic City Classic at Legion Field." AL.com
- Johnson, Roy S. (February 20, 2023) "Jefferson County Commission to consider new six-figure contribution to Magic City Classic." AL.com
- Johnson, Roy S. (April 27, 2023) "Alabama State signs exclusive agreement to receive $1.5 million for 2023 and 2025 Classics." AL.com
- Johnson, Roy S. (May 9, 2023) "Latest Magic City Classic audible: Alabama A&M to oversee game-day operations, secure sponsors for 2024, 2026." AL.com
- Johnson, Roy S. (September 22, 2023) "Alabama A&M says it has retained own firm to promote ‘23 Magic City Classic, firm denies it." AL.com
- Johnson, Roy S. (September 25, 2023) "Alabama A&M says it hired NOLA firm for 2023 MCC; firm says it’s ‘not under contract’ with institution." AL.com
- Leech, Marie (October 3, 2023) "Schools reach agreement on future of Magic City Classic." Birmingham Business Journal