Fans of the Benedict Tigers and the South Carolina State Bulldogs will have to find something else to do on Sept. 2. The historically black colleges won't be playing football against each other that day as planned because of the NAACP boycott of South Carolina tourism over the Confederate flag controversy.
Last year's game, the first between the schools since 1966, drew 24,577 fans in Orangeburg, home of the Bulldogs. S.C. State made $166,000 and Benedict $23,500, according to the State newspaper in Columbia, where Benedict is located. Those are big numbers for a pair of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools, and the boycott will hurt both institutions financially.
"The alumni of both schools lose out," said Democratic state Sen. Kay Patterson, who earned a graduate degree from State in 1970. He called the cancellation "disgraceful."
This year's game was also scheduled for Orangeburg, and because of that unusual arrangement, Benedict is able to back out of its contract without penalty. The game could have been rescheduled at another site, but the schools couldn't agree on one. Benedict officials suggested playing it in Charlotte, N.C., but State declined.
Benedict will move its homecoming game from Columbia to Charlotte, which is likely to cost the school more money, since the homecoming game brings in three times the revenue of the other home games.
Benedict athletic director Willie Washington says the school is acting out of respect for the NAACP tourism boycott by canceling or moving events that would have drawn large crowds to the state. The four remaining Benedict home games will be played in Columbia.
"Our stand as an institution is that we will honor the economic sanctions that are in place and we will not try to bring in major athletic activities," Washington said.
South Carolina State won last year's game, 26-23. Benedict opens its season Aug. 26 against Fayetteville State, but the Benedict tilt would have been the opener for State. Unless the Bulldogs can find a new opponent in a hurry, which is doubtful, they'll now open Sept. 9.