MIAMI — Bethune-Cookman will get everything it wants this weekend. A check for appearing. A chance to gather thousands of alumni in one place. Another opportunity to play on national television.
And best of all, a shot against one of college football’s big-time programs.
Only 86 years after starting its football program, Bethune-Cookman – a relatively small, historically black university in Daytona Beach, Fla. – is finally going to play one of football’s top brands. The Wildcats visit Miami on Saturday afternoon, marking the first time the team from the division formerly known as I-AA will line up against a team with ties to the Bowl Championship Series.
Suffice to say, there’s going to be no shortage of alumni from the visiting school entering Sun Life Stadium this weekend.
“It happens to be the biggest game this week for us,” Wildcats athletic director Lynn Thompson said. “But I have to give credence to the fact that it’s an opportunity for the university to be seen on a national platform. It’s an infomercial on B-CU. For 3½ hours, we’ll have the nation’s undivided attention. We’re hoping to utilize this opportunity to penetrate some recruiting circles and maybe tell potential donors and sponsors something about Bethune-Cookman.”
Bethune-Cookman (2-1) is a perennial contender in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, where it plays alongside the likes of Florida A&M, Howard, Hampton and South Carolina State. Miami (1-2) is using this as another tuneup for its return to the Atlantic Coast Conference season next week, with road games looming at Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
The Hurricanes are quite clear on what this opportunity means to Bethune-Cookman, which expects “thousands” of graduates to attend.
“It’s their Super Bowl,” Miami quarterback Jacory Harris said. “We understand they’re going to come out here playing their hardest. They’re going to give us their best game. We’re going to give them our best game.”
For the Bethune-Cookman players and coaches, it means as much as any rivalry game would. Maybe even more, when considering that it’s a homecoming for Wildcats coach Brian Jenkins. Like about two dozen of his current players, Jenkins grew up in South Florida, maybe a 20-minute drive from the stadium the Hurricanes call home. He rooted for them. He wanted to be them.
Come Saturday, he’ll try to beat them.
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