Rams, Wildcats days away from dueling in 23rd Fountain City Classic

ASU head coach Mike White, left, poses for a photo at the Fountain City Classic Media Day on Tuesday with FVSU coach Donald Pittman. (Reginald Christian/Special to The Herald)

ASU head coach Mike White, left, poses for a photo at the Fountain City Classic Media Day on Tuesday with FVSU coach Donald Pittman. (Reginald Christian/Special to The Herald)

Looking Ahead

WHO: Fort Valley (7-2, 5-1) vs. Albany St. (6-3, 5-1).

WHAT: 23rd annual Fountain City Classic, East Division showdown.

WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Columbus.

RADIO: 98.1 FM.

LIVE UPDATES: Log onto: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.

COLUMBUS — Two of the biggest rivals in black college football history, the Albany State University Golden Rams and the Fort Valley State University Wildcats, are closing in on one of the biggest battles of the HBCU season — and with lots at stake.

The Rams and Wildcats face off in the 23rd annual Fountain City Classic on Saturday at 2 p.m. at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium in Columbus as the Rams enter the game 6-3 overall and 5-1 in conference, while the Wildcats enter the game at 7-2 overall and 5-1.

In effect, the winner not only captures the East Division title but moves on to play in the 2nd annual conference championship game in Atlanta — and probably the Division II postseason — while the loser goes home.

This year’s game is the 66th meeting between ASU and the FVSU since 1945. FVSU leads the series 32-30-3, while ASU leads the FCC series 17-5. FVSU won the first meeting in 1945 when the Wildcats beat the Rams, 27-21. The two schools did not play each other in 1946 and 1947. Last year, the Rams won, 38-29.

No. 23 promises to be unlike any other.

“The Golden Ram nation is always ready for an exciting game against the Wildcats. This year’s event is important because both schools are tied for first place with 5-1 conference records, so the outcome of the game will determine which school represents the East Division in the (conference) football championship game,” ASU A.D. Richard Williams said. “Although we beat Fort Valley in the classic game last year, we fell short of our goals in the (conference) championship game. We want to play in the championship game and the Wildcats want to spoil our chances of returning to the big game. We look forward to a great game.”

A great game with added meaning for one coach.

A Fountain City Classic win for Albany State would mark coach Mike White’s 100th career victory.

“The Golden Rams will play hard to give Coach White his 100th win,” Williams added.

While the rivalry between the two teams spans more than half a century, FCC officials moved the game to Columbus in 1990, a regional center, to attract more corporate support, recruit more students and make it a weekend event full of classic activities, said State Rep. Calvin Smyre, chairman of the FCC, Inc.

“It makes great business sense to bring this gathering and game to Columbus. There are a lot of alumni located in and around Columbus and they are loyal football fans,” Smyre said. “With proceeds going to the schools, more funds can be generated from a larger crowd in attendance at a larger facility. It’s a win-win situation for the city of Columbus and both universities. Hotels and restaurants are full and people are having a great weekend.”

Halftime festivities include the band showdown between the Albany State Marching Rams Show Band and the Fort Valley State Marching Blue Machine.

FCC activities kicked off Monday with the 4th annual Health Fair and continued Tuesday with the media luncheon and news conference at the Columbus Trade Center.

Other FCC activities include recruitment fairs, golf tournament, parties and a parade.

Tickets for the FCC game are now on sale. Tickets are $20 in advance for adults and $12 for children and all students with a valid ID card. At-the-gate prices are $25 for adults and $15 for all students. Tickets are on sale on campus at the ASU business office cashier’s window in the ACAD Building, as well as Odyssey Records, June Bug’s Grocery Store and the Radium Springs Petro Store.

For more information, call the ASU athletics department or sports information office at (229) 430-4754 or (229) 430-4673.