Game aims to raise prospects' profiles

Updated: November 5, 2003, 5:33 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- A new college football all-star game aimed at raising the profile of top pro prospects from historically black colleges or universities will begin play in New Orleans after next season.

"This game is something that's been needed for some time," former NFL linebacker Richard Harvey said during a media conference Wednesday to announced the launch of the HBCU All-Star Classic.

Black college players "have not been afforded the proper opportunities and proper exposure," he said.

The game will be played in 30,000-seat Tad Gormley Stadium, an open-ended bowl-shaped stadium in City Park that in recent years has hosted Tulane's homecoming games.

The game will be much like the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic that has long been held in Alabama (except last season because of sponsorship problems). But all players will be selected from historically black colleges or universities, such as Grambling State, defending champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

About 90 current NFL players -- including Steve McNair, Jerry Rice, Shannon Sharpe and Michael Strahan -- attended historically black colleges or universities, also called HBCUs.

Grambling coach Doug Williams also played at Grambling before joining the NFL and eventually leading the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl XXII victory.

"The contributions have been there," said Harvey, an HBCU spokesman. "The goal is for the HBCU to provide the information and knowledge to step into the pro ranks."

Harvey said a number of current or former NFL players have expressed interest in helping put on the HBCU event, and that negotiations are ongoing with several major sponsors.

There are about 105 colleges with HBCU status nationwide, about 43 of which have football programs. Most of the schools are in the Southeast.

Harvey did not attend a historically black college, but spent much of his life in the Southeast. He is a Mississippi native who played in college at Tulane and spent part of his pro career with the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans, also home to the Bayou Classic involving Grambling and Southern, is the perfect place to host an HBCU all-star game, Harvey said, both because of where the city is and because of how much people enjoy visiting.

"When I talk to NFL guys about participating, the first thing they says is, 'Where's it being held? New Orleans? I'm there!"

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press