SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — It’s now official. The city of Shreveport will host the Bayou Classic football game April 17 in Independence Stadium.
This is major news for two historic programs: Grambling State and Southern, each of which has a huge fan base, especially in their home state of Louisiana.
The pandemic prompted Southwestern Athletic Conference leaders to delay the start of football season until late February. That’s why the Bayou Classic is now scheduled for mid-April.
Then renovations to the Superdome forced the one-year change in location.
“I’m very excited to announce that Shreveport will be host of the 47th annual Bayou Classic!”
Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins made that announcement during a news conference Monday morning at Independence Stadium, home of the Independence Bowl.
The campaign to bring the Bayou Classic to Shreveport became a team effort by many Northwest Louisiana leaders that has been in the works for a while, the mayor said.
Perkins made his remarks shortly after the end of the news conference that also featured leaders from Grambling State and Southern universities.
“2020 has been a year that’s weighed on all of us in some form or another," Perkins began. "And the fact that we get great news today that the Bayou Classic, a huge event with hundreds of thousands of people attend and it generates millions of dollars, that we get to have that here in Shreveport is something we can celebrate.”
This will be the second time this century when the Bayou Classic football game will not be played in New Orleans' Superdome.
The other time it had to be played elsewhere was in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina’s devastation forced the game to be moved to Houston that year.
This time, local and state leaders wanted to ensure the Bayou Classic stays in Louisiana. And in that spirit, Kelly Wells made a few brief remarks.
“On behalf of our Shreveport-Bossier tourism community, we will be ready," said the executive director of the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission. "You bring the game and we will bring the support of our people and our businesses. Regardless of who wins, and I know that’s important to coach, we are going to lead going in.”
The nationally televised game will put the city on the map just four months after the annual Independence Bowl game, which also has a national audience.
But as Perkins pointed out, so much of how this Bayou Classic plays out economically depends largely on what’s happening with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 is what’s going to keep me up at night. But I got faith in our community that we’re going to do the right things and just, you know, wear our masks, social distancing, washing our hands. So that Shreveport is the safest place possible to host this game for 2021.”
During the news conference, Southern head football coach Dawson Odums said the announcement Monday is a positive development for everyone involved.
"I think we understand that a lot going on in our country. And I would be very disappointed if I didn’t say ‘How good is our God’ because we’re able to stand up here today and talk about football when there was a time when we didn’t even know if we’d play football. "
Grambling State head football coach Broderick Fobbs told KSLA News 12 after the news conference that he expects one of the biggest challenges will be keeping his team focused. “Stay healthy, stay safe. But then secondly, there’s the mental health that you have to deal with, as well. So you have to try to make sure that everyone is okay with that also, too.”
While the Bayou Classic is still seven months out, we’re told ticket sales could begin by next month.