Photo | Mobile Sports Authority
Festivities related to the inaugural Gulf Coast Challenge, a game between Alabama A&M and Southern University, begin with a college and career fair Wednesday and a concert in Cathedral Square featuring Doug E. Fresh.
The inaugural Gulf Coast Challenge (GCC) at first may appear to be just another football game. But a look at the list of events planned reveals Saturday’s athletic contest is just one slice of the festivities.
The Alabama A&M Bulldogs will serve as host Saturday when the Southern University Jaguars come to Ladd-Peebles Stadium in the Southwest Athletic Conference showdown. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.
The game, which is being produced jointly by the Mobile Sports Authority and the Gulf Coast Challenge Committee, will cap several days of entertainment, fun, food and tailgating.
“College football is a huge event and having the opportunity to host two of the largest HBCU [Historically Black College and University] football teams in the South speaks volumes for our city,” said Tim Hale, GCC executive director. “The Gulf Coast Challenge will add to the many attractions that Mobile already has to boast about as football fans flock to the city to partake in the events for that week.”
The Mobile Sports Authority has supported the return of HBCU teams to Mobile for several seasons. The GCC replaces the 5th Quarter Classic, which had attracted tens of thousands of fans and generated millions of dollars in estimated economic impact.
“As we have for the past two years, we are very excited to be hosting another HBCU football weekend in Mobile this fall,” said Danny Corte, executive director of the Mobile Sports Authority. “With the excitement that both Southern University and Alabama A&M will bring, we expect this event to be one … fans of both schools will not want to miss as we’re putting together a fun-filled weekend of events for all to enjoy.”
• Activities get underway Wednesday morning with a college and career fair at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A kickoff concert is set for 5 p.m. at Cathedral Square in downtown Mobile with Doug E. Fresh scheduled to perform.
On Thursday, the Gulf Coast Challenge HBCU golf tournament will begin at 8 a.m. at Heron Lakes Country Club. The alumni luncheon will be at 11:30 a.m. back at the Riverview, as will a pep rally at 6 p.m. and an alumni networking mixer at 7 p.m.
The golf tournament continues Friday at Heron Lakes at 8 a.m. The college teams will have a luncheon at the Riverview at 11:30 a.m. A bid whist/spades tournament for fans will take place at the hotel 3-6 p.m.
The action starts heating up at 6 p.m. with the HBCU Greek Fest/Step Shot/Battle of the Bands inside the Mobile Civic Center at 6 p.m. Two events wrap up the agenda at 9 p.m., with an alumni bash at Azalea Manor, while Club Rain will host an after-party.
The celebrated marching bands from both schools will be on display during the parade presented by Bishop State Community College on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Tailgating at Ladd-Peebles Stadium will begin at noon. A second line procession into the stadium will begin at 3 p.m. Two additional gatherings at 9 p.m. will wrap up the celebrations at the Contemporary Museum of Art and Club Rain.
Tickets for all events are available by visiting thegulfcoastchallenge.com or calling 251-281-8202.
• Although Alabama A&M is designated as the host, don’t be surprised to see a large contingent of Southern fans making the trip via Interstate 10. Baton Rouge is only 200 miles from Mobile, while Huntsville is 355 miles to the north.
The two squads first met in 1939, with Southern capturing last year’s game 35-14. It helped head coach Dawson Odums record his fifth-straight winning season.
Offensive lineman Jeremiah Abby and safety Andrea Augustine earned first-team honors on the preseason all-SWAC roster. Both were on the first-team squad in 2017.
John Lampley is the most experienced signal caller, having completed 14 of 26 passes for 114 yards. Devon Benn averaged 5.1 yards per carry as he ran for 442 yards and four touchdowns. Jamar Washington made a splash as a freshman last year, ranking tied for ninth in the conference in receptions with 38.
The defense is led by Augustine (who had 53 tackles) and senior defensive back Demario Houston (who was named on the Black College Hall of Fame Player of the Year Watch List). Houston doubles as a return specialist.
• A large group of A&M alumni attended the news conference at Ladd-Peebles Stadium that announced the creation of the GCC. They are ready to make their presence felt for new head coach Connell Mayor.
The Bulldogs have 13 returning starters, including six from the No. 2-ranked defense in the league last season. On the SWAC preseason first-team are defensive lineman Vernon Moland (35 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 10 sacks in 2017) and defensive back Dylan Hamilton (67 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions in 2017). Yurik Bethune returns as a pass rusher (46 tackles, 12.0 TFL, 5 sacks).
Quarterback Aqeel Glass is back after tossing for 1,192 yards and five scores as a sophomore. Senior Isaiah Bailey hauled in 34 grabs for 514 yards and six scores while placing fourth in the league in receiving yards per game despite missing a pair of contests. Running back Jordan Bentley carried the ball 107 times for 427 yards and five touchdowns during an injury-plagued sophomore season after gaining 851 yards as a freshman.
BayBears’ GM receives honor
It would be an understatement to say it was a tumultuous year for the Mobile BayBears. After learning the franchise had been sold and would be moving to Huntsville in 2020, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels hung together and remained competitive for a playoff berth until the final week of the season.
For keeping the ship afloat, the Southern League announced BayBears General Manager Chris Morgan has been named the 2018 Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year.
“I am incredibly flattered and appreciative that my peers throughout the league selected me for this award,” Morgan said. “This award is an acknowledgement of the effort put forth by our front office staff throughout this past season, despite working under unique circumstances.”
Morgan began his current position with the BayBears in August 2014, after serving as the director of game operations at the Senior Bowl from 1998 to 2014. According to the official announcement, “His leadership and efforts throughout this period made him stand out among other Southern League executives, who voted for the award. The BayBears front office staff, under Morgan’s guidance, is committed to delivering the best possible product throughout the team’s remaining time in Mobile.”
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