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Blue-Gray Football Classic

From Academic Kids

The Blue-Gray Football Classic is an annual American college football all-star game held in Alabama in December. It was begun in 1938 and held each year until 2001 at the Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. The game was not contested in 2002 and was subsequently revived in 2003 in Troy, Alabama. However, the 2004 Blue-Gray game was cancelled because it lacked a sponsor.

The Blue-Gray game has an interesting and somewhat checkered history. It is traditionally the first major college all-star game of the year. For this reason, it has a hard time getting most of the truly big-name collegiate stars, for they are preparing at the same time for bowl games with their regular teams. In recent years, therefore, most of the players have been players from teams with losing records and from smaller schools which do not play NCAA Division I football. The game gives these players an opportunity to be noticed by NFL scouts and others who may not have had the opportunity to observe them previously.

Given its setting, it should not be surprising that this game was slow to desegregate, and in fact was once removed from the schedule of the NBC television network for this reason. Since then, the game has not only desegregated, in the process showcasing many African-American stars from smaller, lesser-known schools (including many historically black colleges and universities), it has also made many concessions to make it more television-friendly, such as shortening the first quarter to 12 minutes on at least one occasion to make it fit more easily into a doubleheader package, and changing the rules so that after any score a team down by a double-digit margin will receive the kickoff, even if they in fact were the one which had just scored, presumably to keep the game close and prevent the loss of viewership which often occurs in grossly uneven contests. In recent years, the game has always been played on Christmas Day, which may tend to limit the live gate, but which insures that it will be on television at a time when many viewers are available for it.

Even in its new setting in Troy on the campus of Troy State University's Movie Gallery Stadium, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Montgomery, the Montgomery Lions Club has remained active in the staging of the game, and in fact were instrumental in finding this new venue to replace the aging, and some would say crumbling, Crampton Bowl. In fact, the game's 2002 hiatus was related to two primary factors, the failure to obtain a new corporate sponsor to purchase the game's naming rights after the Kelley-Springfield Tire Co. a subsidiary of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., decided to discontinue its sponsorship, and the declining condition of the Crampton Bowl. It is generally assumed that the Lions and others would like to return the game to Montgomery eventually, but have no intention of doing so unless the Crampton Bowl is replaced, or, at a minimum, seriously upgraded.

An interesting facet of the game is that players generally are encouraged to bring decals of their respective schools' helmet logos. While this is apparently very amusing for the players, it makes it almost impossible for the casual fan to determine where a player attended school in many instances, as many players tend to decorate their helmets, which they bring from their own schools, with many other decals prior to the playing of the game. The format, unsurprisingly given the game's name, pits players who attended college in the states of the former Confederacy, the "Grays", against players who attended school in the rest of the country, the "Blues". A somewhat macabre fact often associated with the game was that it was the site of the last public appearance of the late former Alabama governor Lurleen Wallace prior to her death in office from cancer.

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