Featured Stories

Classic wins city hands down: 42,000 watch Hampton beat Tuskegee, 53-0

by Ebony Reed, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: September 21, 2003

Parties were held; music was played. A summit convened, dancers swayed, and old friends gathered.

And, oh, there was a football game.

Thousands of people showed up to watch Hampton University roll over Tuskegee University, 53-0, yesterday at Cleveland Browns Stadium in the Ohio Classic. But the game capped a weeklong series of festivities.

Activities from fun parties to serious summit meetings drew young and old fans from all over.

They talked organ donation and expensive prescription drugs at a health-care summit and swayed to smooth, silky neo-soul music while eating breakfast at the Bottom Line Night Club in the Flats. Some joined J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Classic chairman and secretary of state, at a breakfast inside the Galleria. And others found comfort in rhythmic beats at an evening step show.

Yesterday’s 2003 Procter & Gamble Ohio Classic and Jamboree took tailgating to a new level. It broke attendance records for the 4-year-old game that normally is held in Cincinnati. Ticket sales hit about 42,000, and many turned out for pre-and post-game festivities.

One of the post-game activities, a step show, entertained a crowd at Public Hall. Members of sororities and fraternities and even elementary school kids performed a synchronized dance while combining speaking, singing, chanting, drama and movements.

Before the game, the boom-boom-boom from Columbus’ East High School band rocked the upper level of the Galleria while members practiced before performing at Blackwell’s brunch.

“Space is limited,” Band Director Martha Hal told students, as she motioned for them to move closer to one another. “You got to work together.”

Their sound drew people who stopped to listen and watch their 96 bodies in orange, white and black uniforms.

“I love it,” said Sharoan Townsel as she watched her 10th-grade daughter, Shaunna, who plays clarinet.

“I hope they look at [and consider] the colleges.”

Getting kids to think about college is why Cleveland Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett sent 300 students to the game.

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church and a 1956 Morehouse graduate, said this week that the Classics unite graduates, supporters and people who appreciate the history of black colleges.

After slavery ended, many black colleges were started to educate blacks because white schools would not admit them. The colleges also became popular with southern athletes who sometimes could get into northern white schools but opted to remain close to families and friends, said Michael Hurd, author of “Black College Football.”

The Ohio Classic was in Cleveland for the first time, but its roots and those of other classics date back 85 years.

The first classic pitted Howard University and Lincoln University of Pennsylvania in 1918, Hurd said in a phone interview from Daly City, Calif. The games, which matched rivals or were scheduled as the season’s last game, were called “classics” because of their importance, he said. This year, black college football teams will play in 47 classics, according to HBCUSports.com, a sports Web site.

In addition to connecting alumni and providing a social outlet, the games have become a way for southern black colleges to raise money and showcase education programs. Ohio Classic President John Pace Jr. said about $600,000 will go to the two colleges and scholarships.

At the hip-hop brunch, Michelle Glenn, 22, a senior at the University of Akron, said the festivities are “more about unity than rivalry.”

“Everyone,” she said, “is loving each other.”


Cleveland to put on its full-court best Black-College game at Gund in April

by Sarah Hollander, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: November 14, 2003

The people who brought the popular Ohio Classic Football game to town in September plan an encore event this spring with the Black College All-Star Basketball Game and Weekend.

The country’s 20 best basketball players from historically black colleges and universities will compete at Gund Arena, organizer John Pace Jr. said.

The four-day festival, from April 29 to May 2, will include a step show, concerts, a college fair and numerous other events.

“We believe this will be every bit as big as the Classic in putting people in hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and night clubs,” Pace said.

He expects the event to pump $12 million into the local economy. And a percentage of ticket sales and fund-raisers by about 20 community groups should raise more than $250,000 for scholarships and educational programs, Pace said.

Organizers considered Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Detroit, but decided Cleveland was the best choice for launching the new event.

“The overwhelming success we had in September was really the linchpin,” Pace said.

That weeklong event attracted 45,693 to a football game between Tuskegee and Hampton universities at Cleveland Browns stadium, filled 3,400 hotel rooms and generated more than $15 million in economic impact, he said.

This spring’s basketball doubleheader will begin with a celebrity game featuring entertainers and active and retired athletes, such as former boxing champion James “Buster” Douglas.

Actresses Vivica A. Fox and Kym Whitley will help chair the game, Pace said. He also expects to book nationally known entertainment for halftime.

“It’s a top level of college basketball,” Gund building manager Peter Patton said. “I think the concept is great and I would anticipate there will be a strong crowd for it.”

Players from the South-West and Mid-East athletic conferences and the Central and Southern intercollegiate athletic associations will compete.

Pace expects the commissioners from each of the four groups to come to Cleveland for an official announcement Tuesday.


Cleveland Economy gets over $15 Million Boost

by Sarah Hollander, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: September 24, 2003

Final organizers of the inaugural Ohio Classic expected a touchdown for Cleveland’s economy. Now they’re dancing in the end zone.

John Pace, president of The Ohio Classic, originally predicted the Saturday football game and associated events would generate $10 million for the local economy. Now, based on post-game surveys, he has increased the estimate to $15 million to 17 million.

Pace hoped 30,000 people would attend the game between Tuskegee and Hampton universities. Instead, 45,693 packed Cleveland Browns Stadium. Organizers projected 800 to 1,000 hotel room nights, but ended with nearly 3,400, he said.

The impact was obvious, said DeAnn Hegidus, spokeswoman for the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland.

“Every downtown hotel was sold out this past weekend,” she said.

David Squires, an expert on similar classics around the country, expects Cleveland’s attendance figures to rank among the top 10 for the year.

Black college football teams will play in 47 classics this year. In addition to connecting alumni and providing a social outlet, the games have become a way for historically black colleges to raise money and showcase education programs.

Squires, editor of Chicago-based BlackVoices.com and Black Voices Quarterly magazine, said he usually multiplies the game attendance number by three for a total turnout for all activities.

“Everybody doesn’t go to the game,” he said.

Squires attended several of the events, including a party at Mirage on the Water, a nightclub in the Flats, where he found a capacity crowd and celebrities like LeBron James and other members of the Cavaliers.

Jim Buchanan, owner of Alexandria’s on Main, said his restaurant doubled its business. The crowds continued from Friday night dinner through Sunday brunch.

“The folks came in droves, and they partied,” Buchanan said. “They came with their wallets open.”

African-American businesses weren’t the only ones to benefit, he said. “The football game was one day, but the weekend was designed to display the city.”

Many first-time visitors to Cleveland said they were impressed and would come back, he said. Cincinnati began hosting the event in 1999 as the Riverfront Classic. The Cincinnati classic never sold more than 35,000 tickets.

Pace moved the game to Cleveland this spring after a scheduling conflict with the Cincinnati Bengals. Cleveland probably fared better because more African-Americans live within driving distance, Pace said.

Squires said he wasn’t surprised by the event’s success here. Cleveland has plenty of things to do, he said, and the events were generally well advertised, affordable and within walking distance or a quick cab ride.

The visitors bureau helped with marketing through its Web site, brochures, and advertising in 15 cities over two months.

The game’s unexpected move to Cleveland was initially temporary. Then Pace considered alternating between the Queen City and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital. But now he’s considering making Cleveland the Ohio Classic’s permanent home.

Pace said he’s not yet ready to announce his decision. “But I think Cleveland will be pleased,” he said.


It’ll be a whole lot of hoopla going on – Black College All-Star basketball game is 7-day event

by Sarah Hollander, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: April 8, 2004

The Black College All-Star basketball game keeps growing — both in events and expectations.

Organizers announced an updated list of players, celebrities and events for the week of April 26 to May 2.

John Pace, who brought the Ohio Classic football game to Cleveland last fall, said he hopes the event generates $12.5 million for the local economy, plus money for scholarships and historically black colleges and universities.

“If timing is everything, I think the time is right,” Pace said, noting Cleveland’s rising national image courtesy of LeBron James and the recent success of the Cavaliers.

Pace’s Cleveland-based company put on the Ohio Classic football game at Cleveland Browns Stadium in September. The contest between Tuskegee and Hampton drew 45,692; generated $15 million for the local economy, and raised $500,000 for black colleges and universities, according to Pace.

This year, in addition to the college all-star game, local and national celebrities will compete in a basketball game, and area high school girls and boys will play in games. All four games are scheduled for May 1 at Gund Arena.

Some other additions include:

An appearance by former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White as a coach for the celebrity all-star game. He will be joined by former NBA star Spud Webb, who will coach one team with White, in a game against a team coached by former NBA stars Moses Malone and Brad Sellers.

The movie premiere of “Super Spy,” an independent action comedy spoof by comedian A.J. Jamal, starring Lisa Raye of UPN’s “All of Us,” Reynaldo Rey of BET’s Comicview, and others.

A college and job fair, bachelor auction, gospel concert, a fraternity step show and more.

Celebrities scheduled to participate include honorary chairwomen Vivica A. Fox and Cleveland native Kym E. Whitley, Mo’Nique from “The Parkers,” comedians Jay Anthony Brown, Katt Williams and Lil J.J., former boxing champions James “Buster” Douglas and Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, singers Anthony Hamilton and Lil Fizz and J Boog from B2K.


Black College All-Star Game Bounces Back into Town

by Sarah Hollander, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: April 25, 2004

A mortarboard and a basketball share the logo for this week’s Black College All-Star Game.

The game — with its celebrity players, coaches and entertainers — anchors the seven-day affair. But education, economic development and diversity are the real motivations.

“This is much more than a basketball game,” organizer John Pace Jr. said.

Pace, president of World-Class Events Management, brought the Ohio Classic football game to Cleveland last year. He’s also the founder of the Community Quarterback Foundation, a nonprofit charity that provides leadership and educational opportunities for minority youths.

The football game generated a half-million dollars for higher education.

Pace expects the basketball game and associated events to attract about 22,000 people and generate $12.5 million for the local economy through hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs.

The week’s events should garner about $250,000 for historically black colleges and universities and scholarships.

“Sports and entertainment have long been able to break down social, economic and racial barriers,” Pace said. “They can also bring in millions and millions of dollars.”

Fund raising through the football game, and now the basketball game, has a huge impact on the city’s students, Cleveland Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said at a recent news conference.

About 74 percent of Cleveland’s public high school graduates went on to two- or four-year colleges last year.

In addition to offering popular entertainment, the week’s youth events include a college and summer job fair, a health fair and a roundtable discussion for 80 young people targeted as potential leaders.

“Before you can sell anything to anyone, you first need to get their attention,” Pace said. “Once we have their attention, we’re all about education, education, education.”

The community commitment will outlast the game, he said.

Pace is working to identify leaders in Greater Cleveland to start a local End Zone Club branch. Pace and his wife started the college-preparatory program in 1999, and more than 400 students in Dayton, Middletown, Cincinnati and Louisville already participate.

Pace also plans to launch an after-school program in East Cleveland this summer called Hip Hop Meets Mainstream.

He’s looking for volunteers to teach communication, leadership and social skills to at-risk 12- to 16-year-olds. They would also work to build self-esteem and find role models, Pace said.


Cincinnati Welcomes Jamboree Returning after 1 year Absence

The Cincinnati Enquirer
Publication Date: May 23, 2004

After a one-year absence, the Ohio Classic & Jamboree football game and festival will return to Cincinnati this year.

Organizers of the four-day event said it will alternate between Cincinnati and Cleveland, where it was held for the first time last year since the event began in 1999 in Cincinnati.

“Yes, it is definitely going to happen,” said John Pace, president of the River Front Classic Corp.

He said he plans to have teams signed for the game in two weeks. The event typically attracts the best teams from historically black colleges.

The game will be played Sept. 18 at Paul Brown Stadium. It will be held at the same time as Oktoberfest and a series between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.

The event moved to Cleveland last year because of a scheduling conflict. It drew more than 45,000 people, 15,000 more than in Cincinnati, and generated $15 million in revenue for the city. More black sponsors and black-owned businesses got involved.

The success raised questions of whether the game would return to Cincinnati.

“There was never a second thought about coming back to Cincinnati,” Pace said. “We feel that we can achieve similar results here.”


Football Classic set for September at Browns Stadium

by Eric Morath, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: June 4, 2003

Hut – Schedule a football game at Browns Stadium.

Hut, hut – Invite two historically black universities.

Hut, hut, hut – Line up a battle of the bands.

Those were the signals called yesterday by organizers of the Sept. 20 Ohio Classic, when Tuskegee and Hampton universities will kick off what is described as “more than just a football game.”

“There is color and pageantry and energy everywhere you go,” said Ohio Classic President John Pace.

The event is expected to generate $10 million for the local economy and give the schools exposure in Northeast Ohio.

Pace helped organize the Riverfront Classic played last year in Cincinnati. The event will alternate annually with Cleveland.

Pace said he expects the bands to draw as much attention as the football teams.

“The stands are at capacity at halftime and right after the game, because it’s about the bands,” he said.

Festivities will begin on Friday afternoon with a drum line demonstration at an undetermined location.

“As they play, you will see some syncopated contortion,” Pace said. “You’ll question how the body can do that and keep beat as well.”

After the game Saturday, there will be a battle of the bands near the stadium, plus fraternity and sorority rhythm dancing at Music Hall.

The Classic is in keeping with the city’s goal of bringing more than just Browns football to the stadium, Mayor Jane Campbell said.

She said the event will expose Cleveland to historically black colleges such as Hampton in Virginia and Tuskegee in Alabama.

These schools “make sure our engagement in higher education is not just for some of us but is really for all of us,” Campbell said.

The Classic also gives Ohio companies a chance to recruit students from the participating schools, said Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, the event’s honorary chairman.

The exposure to African-American culture will be an added positive impact of the game, Pace said.

“For people who haven’t experienced this part of the African-American culture . . . it starts them talking because it is so festive,” he added.


Hopeful High-School Students Pack Black-College Fair

by Susan Ruiz Patton, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: September 20, 2003

Greater Clevelanders swamped yesterday’s Ohio Classic college fair, proving once more that there is local excitement over the historically black university football game and jamboree.

This afternoon’s game between Hampton and Tuskegee universities at Cleveland Browns Stadium is as popular among historically black colleges and universities as the Army-Navy game.

And even though the central event is a football game, the Ohio Classic is really all about college scholarships.

The Classic has promised to donate $1 from the sale of every game ticket (which range from $14 to $50) to a scholarship fund for college-bound Cleveland high school students, said John Pace Jr., president of the Classic. Pace expects there will be about $40,000 available for that fund.

This year’s advance ticket already have exceeded last year’s total for the game in Cincinnati. The Browns suggested yesterday that the second tier of stadium seats be opened for the game because ticket sales for the lower bowl were so good, Pace said. The lower bowl seats about 42,000.

Hampton and Tuskegee will split an estimated $350,000 after the Ohio Classic is over. Nearly $300,000 of that is coming from the name sponsor, Procter & Gamble.

In addition, a number of nightclubs and businesses, including Bottom Line, 727 and Club Moda, are donating profits from this weekend to the universities. Other Ohio Classic events that charge admission will be donating 25 percent of the proceeds to the two universities.

Representatives from both schools – armed with college applications, catalogs and financial aid information – were at yesterday’s college fair at the Marriott Residence Inn on Prospect Avenue.

Central State University, one of two historically black colleges and universities in Ohio, also sent a representative.

Attendance at the fair exceeded organizers’ expectations.

More than 200 students arrived within the fair’s first half-hour, and 115 of them had walked nearly a mile in the pouring rain from the Cleveland School District’s Early College program near Cleveland State University.

Annaliesa Henley, of Cleveland, attended the fair for her two sons, Marcus, a junior, and Gerald, a senior, both at Martin Luther King Senior High School.

Gerald, who wants to be a neurosurgeon, hopes to get a scholarship to attend a diverse school and is considering, among his choices, Harvard University and Oberlin College, Henley said. But Henley, who went to Alabama A&M University, wants her son to at least consider a black college.

“I’m pumped” about the Classic coming to Cleveland, Henley said. She has fond memories of attending the Bayou Classic in Louisiana when she was in college.

Sam Perkins of Kent said he was disappointed in the fair, because he expected more colleges to be there. And the future business student and college football player wasn’t alone.

About 30 minutes after the fair opened yesterday, there were only a few colleges represented, and it was difficult for the more than 200 young people to get close enough to the college tables.

A last-minute change in location left some college recruiters and students at the wrong hotel. Alan Burton, a local promoter who was organizing the college fair, promised more colleges at another event he said he would like to offer in the spring.

This week, Pace said it looked as if Cleveland would become the Classic’s permanent home. This is the first year the Classic has been held in Cleveland. Yesterday, he said he would have a formal announcement next month.

There were a dozen events yesterday, including a live Tom Joyner Sky Show. Fans lined up as early as 5 p.m. Thursday to get in to yesterday’s 6 a.m. live radio program. Roughly 1,000 fans were turned away for lack of seats, Pace said.

Joyner’s foundation provides scholarship money for students attending historically black colleges and universities. In 2001, the foundation gave $5 million to the colleges for student tuition.

In addition to today’s 1:30 p.m. game, another dozen events are set for the weekend, including a gospel brunch and a party at the nightclub Moda. For a schedule and other information, call 216-861-3937 or go online at www.ohioclassic.com.


Last-minute Deal Saved Big Game – Historically Black Schools Prepare for Classic at Stadium

by Eric Morath, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: September 3, 2003

With the clock ticking on the Ohio Classic, John Pace tossed a Hail Mary pass.

Cleveland caught the ball.

The Classic, an event that was to match two historically black universities in a game in Cincinnati, suddenly faced extinction.But over a whirlwind 10 days in late spring, Classic President John Pace found a new stadium, a new partner in the National Football League and a new plan for future Ohio Classics.

The game between Tuskegee and Hampton universities was originally going to be played Sept. 20 at Paul Brown Stadium as the Riverfront Classic.

Pace’s trouble began in mid-April when the NFL released its 2003 schedule. It put the Cincinnati Bengals at home Sept. 21 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pace’s first call was to Bengals management, who delivered grim news – the stadium’s turf could not handle two games in one weekend.

Other fields in the Queen City, such as the University of Cincinnati and Great American Ballpark, were not viable options.

So with the teams booked for the weekend and sponsors, including consumer giant Procter & Gamble Co., expecting a game, Pace took to the road.

“I didn’t have time to panic,” he said. “We had developed a tough skin because we suffered through significant crises before.” In each of the last two years, outside circumstances had affected the Classic.

The game was canceled in 2001 in the wake of Sept. 11. That year’s match, Grambling State and Florida A&M, was expected to be a huge draw. Pace describes it as the historically black college equivalent of an Ohio State-Michigan game.

The following year, lingering racial tensions and an entertainment boycott stemming from Cincinnati’s 2001 riots cast a shadow over the event.

The game attracted its largest crowd ever, more than 35,000, but Pace said as many as 10,000 more stayed away.

Pace feared that canceling the 2003 game could be the end for the annual event. “We had been canceled in 2001, which created some doubt in the minds of people,” he said. “With a major boycott going on in Cincinnati, people would have attributed [canceling] to the boycott and said it is really never going to come back.”

Classics are more than just the football game. Typically, they are festivals that can last several days. Events have included drum lines, fraternity and sorority step shows and marching band performances. Events for the Ohio Classic are to begin Sept. 14 and continue throughout the week leading up to the game.

In addition to raising scholarship money, Pace said, the classics raise the profile of historically black schools. “Classics have a way of getting young men and women to think about college,” Pace said.

And they inject money into the local economy. Pace predicts the Ohio Classic could generate $10 million for Cleveland.

Games like the Ohio Classic’s Hampton-Tuskegee matchup are traditionally held in pro football stadiums to give black colleges exposure in major markets. After losing Paul Brown Stadium, Pace saw that the Browns were on the road that weekend, making Cleveland a possible site.

But Pace, a Cincinnati resident, didn’t know anyone who worked for the Browns. He did know someone at the Call and Post, a black newspaper based in Cleveland. The paper had previously expressed an interest in starting a classic in Cleveland.

Pace called, and his plea was answered. “We called them on a Friday and that Tuesday we were meeting the Browns,” he said.

Call and Post President Michael House jumped at the chance to help Pace. “This is a chance to reach out to the entire community to have an event highlighting what’s happening with historically black colleges,” House said.

The Browns were looking to host more events at the stadium and said the Ohio Classic seemed to fit the bill, said Kofi Bonner, the team’s executive vice president of business operations and chief administrative officer.

The team had high standards for the first college football game to be played at the stadium since it opened in 1999. The Ohio Classic was up to the challenge.

The Browns have turned down other requests to host football games and events at the stadium, Bonner said, but Pace eased the team’s doubts by having teams in place, sponsors lined up and experience hosting the game in Cincinnati since 1999. To ensure that the Classic endures, Bonner said, the Browns and the Bengals will ask the NFL schedule makers to keep one of the two teams’ stadiums free on the third weekend of each September.

Pace intends to rotate the annual game between the cities, creating a statewide fan base. He and other organizers had discussed the idea, but didn’t expect to put it into place this year.

Despite securing a venue, Pace has more work to do. He needs to attract fans and local sponsors to ensure the $1.2 million game covers its costs, including a guarantee of $350,000 for each school.

Procter & Gamble and other sponsors outside of Cleveland have picked up more than half the tab, but Pace was left with only five months to drum up $450,000 in local support from the Cleveland area. Pace expects as many as 40,000 people could attend the game. About 33,000 game tickets have sold so far, he said yesterday.

All events combined could draw several thousand more. “Another 7,000 or so will come in [to Cleveland]. They won’t go to the game, but they will go to some of the activities,” Pace said.

The chance to support education and diversity is attractive to sponsors, said Hilton Smith, vice president of Turner Construction Co. Turner sponsors the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis and has also given support to the Ohio Classic.

“We are a very diverse community. And the corporate community has a history of supporting diversity issues,” Smith said.


Fans know the Drill!

Marching bands’ battle highlights week of Ohio Classic activities, football game

by Julie E. Washington, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: September 12, 2003

It’s a football game, but the crowd is really waiting to see the marching bands.

That’s what is expected to happenat the Procter & Gamble Ohio Classic, an annual game between two historically black colleges or universities. This year’s matchup pits the Tuskegee University Golden Tigers against the Hampton University Pirates. The afternoon game is Sept. 20 at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

When the tackles are over, theaudience will be treated to performancesby the Tuskegee andHampton marching bands. Atfootball games at traditionallyblack colleges and universities,fans cram the stands during thebands’ razzle-dazzle halftimeshows, and again for the postgamebattle of the bands.

The football game kickoff isthe climax of related events thatbegin Sunday with a ScholarshipJazz Brunch, held by the Clevelandchapter of the NationalHampton Alumni Association,and last through Sept. 21.

Highlights include the BETSound Stage Tailgate Party, “TheTom Joyner Show” live broadcast,and a Bootsy Collins concert.Gerald Levert will sing thenational anthem before the footballgame.

Bands from both universitiesare known for showy, flashy performances,syncopated beats andsnappy steps. “It’s more likewatching a Las Vegas show,”said John Pace Jr., president andCEO of the Procter & GambleOhio Classic.

The Hampton band is thelarger with more than 250 members.It’s known for halftimeshows split between traditionalmusic and steps, and boogeyingto R&B.

“They’re like contortionists,”Pace said.

Tuskegee University’s bandmarches 175 members who performdance-heavy routines.”They come out and break itdown,” he said.

The drum lines from eachband will face off in a battle ofthe drumsticks on Sept. 19. Each drum section takes turns exhibiting its dance and music skills. Rounds of parties, a fashion show, college fair, receptions, happy hours and other events start Sunday and fill the days and nights leading up to the football game on Sept. 20, and continue after it.

The classic was held in Cincinnati for the past few years, but the NFL schedule created problems this year, Pace said. About 40,000 to 50,000 tourists are expected to come here for the week of festivities, and more than half will be female, Pace said.

“It’s not your traditional sports fan or football fan,” hesaid.

The Ohio Classic reaches out to small businesses and community groups that plan their fundraisers under the classic’s umbrella,Pace said.

Professional groups and fraternities and sororities plan to hold their reunions and regional conferences during the Ohio Classic. Many traditionally black colleges and universities have strong alumni bases in Ohio, but those former students don’t have time to travel to the South.

“This is kind of like a homecoming to them,” he said.

The Ohio Classic events encompass education, economic development and diversity, Pace said.

“It’s not events just for blacks. It’s events for the community,”he said.


Ohio Classic Game comes to Cleveland – Record Ticket Sales Welcome Ohio Classic Game to Cleveland

by Amanda Garrett, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Publication Date: September 18, 2003

Worries about torn-up football turf in Cincinnati may have won Cleveland a $10 million prize awarded to the local economy each fall.

Yesterday, as people began pouring into downtown hotels, bars and restaurants for the Ohio Classic – a series of fund-raising events culminating in a football game between two historically black universities – the event’s organizer said he was closing his Cincinnati office and making his permanent business address East Ninth Street in Cleveland.

John C. Pace Jr. hurriedly moved Saturday’s game between Tuskegee and Hampton universities to Cleveland this spring after a scheduling conflict with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The NFL franchise declined to host the annual game because of possible wear and tear on the stadium turf.

The Bengals have a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.

The unexpected move to Cleveland was initially temporary. Then Pace considered alternating between the Queen City and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital.

But by yesterday, with a record 38,000 game tickets already sold, Pace said it looked like Cleveland would be the Ohio Classic’s permanent home.

“It comes down to market share,” said Pace. If you draw a 200-mile radius around Cleveland, and then Cincinnati, Cleveland has about 350 percent more African-Americans, he said.

In Cincinnati, no more than 35,000 tickets were ever sold for the football game, he said. He expects ticket sales for Saturday’s game to climb over 40,000. Tickets to a comedy show and a step competition are nearly sold out, he said.

“Virtually every hotel room downtown is booked. We’re having a hard time finding places for people to stay,” said Pace, who estimated the event will generate about $10 million for the local economy.

In addition, he said that $1 of every ticket sold, or about $40,000, will go into a collegescholarship fund for Northeast Ohio young people. Area community groups will receive an addtional $150,000 from fund-raising events.

Ohio Classic events began Sunday with a scholarship brunch. Yesterday there was a discussion at Cleveland State University about the black college experience.

It continues today with a Kickoff Jam at Club 727 from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. Three hours after the party ends, nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner will host his Friday morning show at Music Hall.

Other events tomorrow include a college fair at Marriott at Key Center, a Tuskegee Airmen awards reception at the Galleria, the drumlines of Tuskegee and Hampton universities at the West Third Street lot at Cleveland Browns Stadium and a comedy show at Music Hall featuring several stand-ups, including Arnez J, Chocolate and Lavel Crawford.

Kickoff Saturday is 1:30 p.m., followed by a step show at Public Hall and the Bootsy Collins All-star Classic Jam at the stadium club lounge.

Many events are free throughout the weekend.