ESPN Events has launched a new event featuring Tuskegee University with the creation of the Red Tails Classic – a college football event showcasing Historically Black Colleges and Universities – in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen who fought in World War II. Tuskegee University and Fort Valley State University will play in the inaugural game at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., to open the 2021 college football season on Sunday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. ET, on ESPNU.
“We are extremely pleased to highlight Tuskegee University in an annual kickoff event in Montgomery for the next three years,” said Pete Derzis, ESPN senior vice president, college sports programming and ESPN Events. “The history of this outstanding HBCU institution is accented with the important role the Tuskegee Airmen played in World War II, and serves as a great source of pride that we hope to highlight within this nationally televised event.”
Tuskegee interim President Charlotte P. Morris added: “Tuskegee’s Labor Day football game will certainly be different this year. We are excited about taking on conference rival Fort Valley State University in this year’s Inaugural Red Tails Classic. The Tuskegee Airmen are our American Heroes, and we are elated to honor them in this newly branded classic.”
The game will be one of two games played at the historic Cramton Bowl to open the college football season. The inaugural Montgomery Classic will be played Wednesday, Sept. 1, featuring Jacksonville State and UAB. Adding to a roster that includes the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Cricket Celebration Bowl, ESPN Events remains dedicated to celebrating the tradition, legacy and values of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and Montgomery County Commission chairman Elton Dean also share in understanding the importance of the Red Tails Classic to the local community.
“Montgomery is proud to bring these unique sports experiences to Cramton Bowl.,” Mayor Reed said. “The Red Tails Classic and Montgomery Kickoff will be enjoyed by fans, families and local businesses alike, and these events will diversify our growing tourism sector.”
“It is no surprise that once again Montgomery County has been chosen to host not one but two nationally televised college football games this fall,” Dean shared. “We are pleased and honored to welcome the inaugural Red Tails Classic and the Montgomery Kickoff. 2021 continues to bring blessings as these two games will provide both national exposure and a positive economic impact. I am grateful ESPN Events continues to see how special Montgomery is in its selection of this great county and thankful for all the dedication by our residents to bring these games here.”
Fort Valley State and Tuskegee are both members of the NCAA Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The SIAC did not sponsor football during the 2020-21 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be the first SIAC football game in 660 calendar days. The last official game was played on Nov. 16, 2019, when Miles defeated Albany State 21-6 in the 2019 SIAC championship game.
“I am excited about it, I think it’s a great opportunity for our players and our school,” said Willie Slater, Tuskegee athletic director and head football coach. “When the opportunity presented itself for us to play in the Red Tails Classic, I was all for it. I think it’s a real good opportunity to play on ESPN.”
Fort Valley State (6-4, 4-2 SIAC) finished third in the SIAC East Division in 2019. Tuskegee (5-5, 4-2 SIAC) finished second in the SIAC West Division in 2019.
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events nationwide. The roster includes five early-season college football games, 17 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 400 hours of live programming, reaches nearly 64 million viewers and attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in more than 10 markets across the country, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.