SALISBURY, NC – One hundred and twenty-five years ago, Livingstone College awaited the arrival of Johnson C. Smith University (then Biddle Memorial Institute), who traveled by horse and buggy to Salisbury to play football.The contest held on a snowy December 27, 1892, on the front lawn of Livingstone College, was the first black intercollegiate football game.
In 2009, the two schools decided to start an annual Commemorative Classic football game to honor the inaugural matchup. The classic is the last football game of the regular season with location now alternating between the two campuses.
“How fitting that on this 125th anniversary, the game will be played where it all started – on the campus of Livingstone College,” said Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr., Livingstone College president.
The original Livingstone team was formally organized in the fall of 1892 and included J.W. Walker (captain); W.J. Trent (manager), who later became the longest-serving president of Livingstone to date; R.J. Rencher; Henry Rives; C.N. Garland; J.R. Dillard; J.B.A. Yelverton; Wade Hampton; Charles H. Patrick; J.J. Taylor; and F.H. Cummings.
According to the college newspaper’s 1930 edition, team members purchased a regulations football and uniforms, and the players equipped their street shoes with cleats, taking them off after practice. The young women of the school’s industrial department made the players’ uniform.
The teams played two 45-minute halves with Trent scoring Livingstone’s only touchdown on a fumble recovery. Biddle argued that the fumble was recovered out of bounds as the snow had covered the field’s markings. The official ruled in Biddle’s favor, allowing them to keep the 5-0 lead and giving them the victory.
“We’re always optimistic about the game,” said Coach Andre Springs, Livingstone’s Athletic Director. “But this is more than a game. The Commemorative Classic pays homage to those original teams that started a tradition of black college football in this country that has made a positive difference and blazed a mighty trail for student athletes.”
This year, Livingstone College and Johnson C. Smith University celebrate 125th anniversary with a host of events following the Commemorative Classic football game that was played on November 4 at Livingstone College.
JCSU took the victory over Livingstone 27-14.