The Ghana Expo's timing couldn't have been better. They will be in Atlanta the same weekend the 100 hosts its 16th annual Atlanta Football Classic which will take place right next door to the Congress Center at the Georgia Dome. For the 9th time in the game's short history, the Tennessee State "Big Blue" Tigers will take on the Orange and Green Rattlers of Florida A&M University. John Grant, Executive Director and CEO of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta said they predict another sell out which is now becoming routine. The last three years of the Classic have filled every seat of the 71,000 capacity Georgia Dome.
As much excitment as the game itself already generates, the amalgamation between the 100 and Africa via Ghana has Grant popping the buttons off his suit vest.
"We want to use this to debunk myths about Africa," said Grant. " Everything you seem to read and hear suggests that Africa is not a great place to do business but when you go there, everybody is there except us."
The Ghana Expo will open its three day trade event with a lavish cultural ceremony called the Grand Durbar which will be facilitated by His Majesty, Ashanti King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II . " Regusters said the trade Expo will allow for exchanges between Ghanaian government and civic leaders and American businesspersons with the aim at forging closer civic, political and religious alliances plus generate lucrative business deals. Some 400 businesses from the US, Africa and other African nations will will exhibit their goods and services, hoping to reap some of the millions to be invested in business and trade. "This expo is our gateway to the motherland," said Grant.
This is the 16th year for the Classic which was born back in the summer of 1989 as an idea of former member Leon Oldham, who thought a game featuring FAMU and TSU in Atlanta would be a great drawing card since it would essentially represent a midpoint for both schools which are 4 hours driving distance from Atlanta. The first game in 1989 met and exceeded the wildest expectations of the Atlanta 100, drawing 46,000 who crammed into Grant Field on the campus of Georgia Tech.
In 1993, the game moved into the newly finished Georgia Dome and enjoyed moderate to good attendance through 1998.. In 1998, through the leadership of 100 president the late Jimmy George, the match-up between FAMU and TSU,interrupted in1991, was resumed. The first "rematch in 1998 drew 51,000 and the figures climbed steadily over 5 years to their present levels.
This year, fans might be deceived into thinking that the game will be one-sided considering FAMU comes to Atlanta with a record of 0-3 while the" big blue" blows into Hotlanta with a 3-0 record. " But let me tell you, I 'm just about the proudest 0-3 coach in America," laughs FAMU head coach Billy Joe. " We've played three of the toughest schools in NCAA Division 1A and despite the scores, we met them toe to toe. I'm proud of them."
Tennessee State head Coach James Reese says he isn't allowing his Tigers to lax in preparation for Saturday's match-up. " I doubt if there are many teams who could get on the field with Southern Illinois, Tulane and Temple all back to back and play as well as FAMU did," Reese told the Atlanta Voice. " We know that FAMU is just 0-3 on paper." Reese has the distinction of playing as well as coaching in the game. In 1989, he was a first team running back for TSU in the first Atlanta Football Classic.
THE SERIES: Only four teams have competed in the Atlanta Classic since it started in 1989. . Florida A&M has won 6 of the 15 games, Tennessee State 4, South Carolina State 3 and Southern 2. In the eight games pitting FAMU and TSU, FAMU leads the series 6-2.
The year to year breakdowns: 1989-FAMU 21, TSU 9 1990-FAMU 10, TSU 16 1991-SC State 30, Southern 23 1992-Southern 19, SC State 18 1993-Southern 14, SC State 10 1994_TSU 32, SC State 28 1995-TSU 15, SC State 14 1996-TSU 19, Southern 18 1997-SC State 34, TSU 28 1998-FAMU 31,TSU 23 ( the tsu- famu series resumes) 1999-TSU 42, FAMU 25 2000-FAMU 31, TSU 6 2001-TSU 27, FAMU 7 2002-FAMU 37, TSU 24 2003-FAMU 10, TSU 7 2004-?