Local councilman wants EverBank Stadium to host HBCU football games

By Randall Barnes

Jacksonville City Councilman Rahman K. Johnson is pushing for HBCU football games to be hosted at the newly renovated EverBank Stadium, per a report by JaxToday reporter Will Brown. This initiative follows the City Council’s recent approval of a whopping $775 million in public funding to overhaul the stadium, with a commitment to attract major events, including an annual HBCU football game. Per Brown, Johnson introduced the HBCU football amendment to the legislation that passed nearly unanimously on June 25.

Councilman Rahman K. Johnson, elected in May 2023,¬†is a distinguished figure in Jacksonville. Known for his work as a television and radio personality, he is also deeply rooted in the community. Johnson is an alumnus of both Edward Waters University and Jackson State University, two prominent HBCUs. His connection to HBCUs doesn’t end there; he also served as¬† an assistant professor of communications at Edward Waters and is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.

Jacksonville has a rich history of hosting college football games. In Brown’s article, he points out that the annual Georgia-Florida rivalry game has been played in Jacksonville since 1933 (with a brief hiatus for renovations), Beyond this, the city has a longstanding tradition of welcoming Black college football teams.

Bethune-Cookman University, based in Daytona Beach, has played multiple home games in Jacksonville, marking its 54th and 55th appearances in the city over the past two years. Although the Wildcats won’t return this year, their presence has been a staple in Jacksonville’s football culture.

The historical significance of Jacksonville in hosting HBCU football is further underscored by the fact that J.P. Small Park hosted the first Orange Blossom Classic between Florida A&M and Howard University in 1933. Edward Waters University, located right in Jacksonville, adds another layer of local HBCU pride.

Hosting HBCU football games at EverBank Stadium could have far-reaching benefits. For one, it would bring a unique cultural event to Jacksonville, enriching the city’s diverse sports offerings. Additionally, the economic impact could be substantial, drawing fans from across the region and boosting local businesses.

The return of the Orange Blossom Classic is a testament to how an HBCU classic can drive traffic and tourism to a city. The classic returned in 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida and featured highly anticipated matchups between Jackson State and Florida A&M University that shaped the course of the championship hunt in the SWAC. Other events such as Battle of the Bands also attracted HBCU alumni around the nation who were interested in the pageantry of HBCU football.

Florida is home to four HBCUs, including Edward Waters University in Jacksonville. Edward Waters has become a strong competitor in the SIAC, thanks to their dynamic offense, which led to several exciting games last year. In November, the president of Edward Waters took to Twitter to issue a challenge to reigning Celebration Bowl champions Florida A&M, which hints at a potential matchup with the new bill. Florida A&M played two Division II non-HBCU opponents, perennial contender University of West Florida and the struggling Lincoln University (California).