Monday, Sept. 15, 2003 | 9:34 a.m.
Two weeks after the UNLV football team drew 21,791 for its home opener, two Division I-AA teams from across the country battled it out at Sam Boyd Stadium in front of a crowd nearly as large.
A crowd of 20,514 came Saturday night to cheer as the third- and fourth-ranked historically black college teams played in the Las Vegas Classic. Third-ranked Southern proved they were the better of the two unbeatens, defeating North Carolina A&T, 35-16.
Southern quarterback Quincy Richard, the game's offensive MVP, led a 29-point second half effort by the Jaguars. Richard completed 25 of 32 passes for 268 yards, and rushed for a touchdown.
More than a game, though, the classic was a social gathering for the fans who came to support their alma mater -- many who came from across the country to share tales of their college years, listen to the bands, and of course, watch football.
Norman Jones came from Atlantic City to root for North Carolina A&T.
"It's like a family reunion. It's a West Coast homecoming," he said at a festive tailgate party in the stadium parking lot. "Not only does it bring people together, but also lets people know there's a strong history behind historical black colleges, and we want to make sure people understand we have an important role in educating our children and our families."
Norman's wife, Sharon, said that playing in Las Vegas raises the visibility of HBCs.
"Our chef this morning at breakfast said that his son went to last year's classic game, where Grambling was playing," said Sharon. "He wanted to go to Grambling for college, and now he wants to go to Southern. It's an attraction."
Another Aggies fan, Robert Edwards, came from Washington, D.C., to see N.C. A&T play.
"One important thing is the history behind these classics," he said. "This is the fifth decade of classic football games of HBCUs in this country."
The turnout was slightly less than the 22,537 that came to last year's Silver Dollar Classic, which featured Grambling and Tennessee State.
Still, Southern's Richard was just as impressed.
"It's ridiculous. They'll travel with us anywhere," he said after the win. "They love us. If you look at the history of Jaguars football, they call it the 'Jaguar Nation,' because we bring support from everywhere. They support us no matter what."