The Gold Coast Classic

For the past 6 years football teams from historically black colleges have clashed on the field of Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers, in hopes of obtaining the Gold Coast Classic Trophy. Schools like Delaware State and Albany State have fought and won these adrenalin-burning battles and with those victories came the honor of being crowned GCC Champion.

This year will be no different, as the earth will once again be rattled when the Stillman College Tigers prepare for a tough fight against the Clark Atlanta University Panthers.

Being invited to the Gold Coast Classic is an honor college football teams are in line to be blessed with. Not only are the organizations air lifted to the beautiful town of San Diego, they instantly become city heroes and get to rub elbows with past attendees like Denzel Washington, Spike Lee and Dave Winfield. This season's game will bare the same celebrity results, and America's icons will once again visit this momentum building game.

Alongside the many parties revolving around the classic is the music. There is a soul shaking battle of the bands and crust warping step show so enormous it has been relocated to the one of the biggest music venues in California, the Coors Amphitheater. This shindig takes place the day before the big game and is quickly becoming a huge draw for thousands of football and music rabid supporters. Nevertheless, the bonus festivities do not end with the music; there is also a celebrity golf tournament and a street beating parade that marches right through the heart of the beautiful metropolitan area.

Since it is creation by Mrs. Gerri Warren in 1997, the Gold Coast Classic has hosted over a hundred thousand supporters. The celebration has also drawn national sponsors like Coca Cola, Cox Cable and Anheuser-Bush. This year's attendees will view the Stillman vs. CAU game but will also see a 250 man flag unfurling, helicopter flybys, and a "Salute to the Military" theme brought to them by the United States Navy.

I spent some time with Mrs. Warren (who was introduced to me by Charger Hall of Famer, Earl Faison) to ask about the GCC and its value to collegiate sports. In the short period, I spent talking with her I could not help but get caught up in her enthusiasm for the classic. Mrs. Warren has been involved with athletics since infancy and even share sibling blood with former Kansas City Royal skipper and team Hall of Famer Hal McRae. She grew up a few miles from Major League Baseball's spring training facility in Florida and told me about cramming her and way too many others into a family car just to go watch some pre-season baseball. She is truly a heart filled individual and has done nothing but enrich the lives of young African American students and athletes.

It was also made it clear to me that the GCC showcases a myriad of talented students in an effort to inspire young men and women on education and athletics by highlighting some of the benefits associated with our nations black colleges. Like the determination of the marching bands that start practice at 3:00 am and then walk 5 miles with their awkward, but smooth sounding, instruments. Or the beautiful pieces of work that are poured out of the schools by their creative and emotion filled artists. Mrs. Warren also wanted me to know that one of the most important things being shown to America's west coast is the camaraderie that black colleges have made famous. The way students relinquish their heart and soul to every cause of the school and then carry that love onto the field, into the classroom and on with their lives. This event is a glimpse at what happens in college when noses are not stuck in books and scholars are afforded the opportunity to watch football, listen to music and celebrate with one another.

Gerri Warren is breaking new ground and setting new standards in the ego dominated and male crowded world of college sports every year. When asked about any hardships she has faced since formulating the classic she modestly told me that "things have been tough, but the event is well worth the struggles." Being a black woman in college sports comes with a few stereotypical thoughts that are being floated around out there by the misguided and ignorant. Even in professional sports, comments are still being made that relate athleticism to skin color. Most people are aware of the Rush Limbaugh comment that was made on ESPN and the better of us do not agree with it. But it is proof that backward thinking morons are still running rampant and can find their way into this countries athletic department. Mrs. Warren has graciously put the morons aside and started a California tradition that will run for years to come.

The classic will be played on Saturday November 15th at 3:00 pm at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. For a complete list of events and times visit www.goldcoastclassic.net or call their office at (619) 262-2244.

Remember that the GCC is a celebration of tradition and culture that is starting to demand the attention it deserves. Go and get your ticket and then let yourself be caught up in its emotion and soul enriched party. This will be a great year for the affair and taking the time to check it out will leave you a better person.

Kevin Blakeley can be reached at khblakeley@hotmail.com

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