By RENALDO DORSETT
WHEN NCAA football comes to the Bahamas in less than a month, the matchup between the Central State University Marauders and the Texas Southern University Tigers will make history.
The institutions will combine to offer six scholarships for local youth when the Marauders and the Tigers face of in the inaugural edition of the Bahamas HBCUX Classic 5pm September 13 at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium. The scholarships are reportedly valued at over $500,000.
Tickets for the event are currently available at the National Sports Authority box office at the TAR Stadium, or can be purchased online at www.nsa-Bahamas.com. Admission will range from a special student rate of $15 to $100.
The Marauders, an NCAA Division II programme in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will be led by a new head coach, Cedric Pearl. They will also feature a pair of preseason SIAC players in tight end Zach Thomas and pass rusher Justin Woods-West.
Thomas, an accounting major from Columbus, Ohio, had 28 receptions for 300 yards last year.
Woods-West, a criminal justice major from Detroit, Michigan, had 42 total tackles, 31 unassisted tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, five quarterback sacks and four passes defended last year.
The Tigers, an NCAA Division I programme in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, is coached by Darrell Asberry and will feature a 2014 recruiting class which is ranked among the top 10 historically black colleges and university classes. They will also welcome former Texas A and M Linebacker, Darian Claiborne to the programme, who will be eligible to play immediately because the Tigers are a member of the Football Championship Subdivision.
As a true freshman last season, he started nine games for the Aggies, finished third with 89 tackles and was a member of the SEC All-Freshmen team.
Curtis Symonds, president and CEO of the HBCUX Network, said bringing the football game to the Bahamas will truly be a “unique experience” on so many different levels. “HBCU’s are looking for places where they can grow and provide more exposure to who they are. Bringing the classic to the Bahamas for the next three years I think is a drive to creating an HBCU destination in the Bahamas, and that is big. It is very big,” he said. “Both bands and teams are unbelievably excited. Most of the bands and the players have never travelled outside the state, so to have an opportunity to come to Nassau to be exposed to this culture is something that is great for them. It is history. There has never been a bowl that has given that much in scholarships. Furthermore it is coming from historically black colleges and it is being played here in the Bahamas. Three strong history making points.”
Symonds said the the buzz surrounding the game has been building exponentially in America and with the support of the Bahamian public he expects that growth to continue in years to come.
“Over the last months, the buzz in the state has been growing and remember, this is the first year but I can tell you we are going to do a great job year after year. We will announce the next two schools in December, so next year we will be ahead of ourselves. We have to announce earlier because it is not only HBCUs that want to play in this, but also non-HBCUs want to find out how they can get in the game because they have heard more and more about the opportunity and the look and feel of this island,” he said. “I like people that think out the box. I’m from Bermuda, I can’t get them to think out of the box. So to come to a country that understands how to think out of the box, how to be able to take an opportunity, how to take a chance, it is extraordinary. I am going to deliver a product and I am going to fill that house.”