A Nearly Century-Old Legacy of HBCU Rivalry

Florida Classic


Get ready for the 43rd Florida Blue Florida Classic as the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman University faces off against the Rattlers of Florida A&M University this Saturday, November 18, 2023. This premier Historically Black College and University (HBCU) football showdown has become a cherished annual tradition but what do we really know about it? Let's look at how it evolved into the massive event it is today.

Wildcat Alumni

The century-old in-state rivalry between the Wildcats and Rattlers kicked off in Tallahassee on October 10, 1925, with Florida A&M securing a 27-17 victory. In more recent history, Bethune-Cookman won the Florida Classic nine straight times since 2011, but Florida A&M has won the last two in a row.

The modern Florida Classic emerged in 1978, surpassing the Bayou Classic in New Orleans as the top-attended game in NCAA Division I-AA. Since settling in Orlando in 1997, it has grown into the largest football game between two HBCUs in the country, attracting over two million spectators annually.

“Bethune-Cookman University is proud to compete against Florida A&M in the Florida Blue Florida Classic,” said Bethune-Cookman Acting President William Berry. “We are especially thrilled to celebrate 100 years of football as yet another example of the living legacy of our beloved Founder.”

Beyond the game, the weekend unfolds as a nearly weeklong celebration. Highlights include the world-famous Disney halftime show featuring the Marching Wildcats and the Marching "100," along with events like the VIP reception "A Night of Distinction," coach luncheons, a battle of the bands, college info sessions, and a major job fair promoting diversity and inclusion.

Marching Band

“We’re happy to head into the classic with a two-game winning streak,” said Reggie Theus, B-CU’s athletic director. “We’re expecting it to be a great football game and a fantastic weekend.”

This matchup not only ignites the spirit of competition but also contributes approximately $30 million in economic impact annually to the Orlando area, fostering redevelopment and community investment around Camping World Stadium.

Join us in the celebration, where spirited competition between two proud HBCU institutions reflects the vision of our Founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune: "We have powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends."

Hail Wildcats!