NEW ORLEANS -- A nationally televised all-star game over the Martin Luther King holiday will feature athletes from the nation's 43 historically black
colleges and universities with NCAA football teams.
Organizers said the HBCU All-Star Classic will provide an NFL scout showcase for the schools, which send only about 3 percent of the players in the
four major all-star games, and will bring people to New Orleans during a slow season.
"Traditionally, HBCUs have a huge following for football," said Toni Rice, president of the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network, a sponsor of
ESPN2 has a two-year agreement to broadcast the game from Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans' City Park, said the game's executive director, Richard
Harvey, who played in the NFL from 1989 to 2000.
Tad Gormley was chosen because it is less expensive than the 70,000-seat Superdome, because its 26,500 seats are more likely to sell out and because
the park is better for tailgating than downtown New Orleans, said Harvey, who played with the New Orleans Saints.
The budget for most college all-star games is about $1.5 million. "We're well below that," Harvey said, though he wouldn't provide specifics.
The coaches, 16 current and former NFL players, will donate their time, with the bowl covering travel and hotels, Harvey said. He said he is looking
for a $400,000 title sponsor.
Amtrak will provide free tickets for players, as it did for last year's HBCU football camp in New Orleans.
The game will be modeled on the Shrine game, with an East and a West team. A selection committee will choose 96 seniors who are eligible for the NFL
draft from the 38 HBCU schools in four conferences, plus five independents.
The East team will be made up from players from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, plus
independents West Virginia State, Cheyney and Savannah State.
The West team will be chosen from the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, plus independents
Tennessee State and Stillman College.
Rice said she believes the game, which includes almost a week of lead-in activities, will eventually become as big a black tourism destination as the
Essence Festival and the Bayou Classic football game. Each of those brings in more than 100,000 people.