08/15/12 7:00 PM ET
Yankee Stadium to host NYUL Football Classic
By Ethan Asofsky / MLB.com
The Yankees announced Wednesday that Yankee Stadium would host Morgan State University and Hampton University in the 41st Annual New York Urban League Football Classic for the first time since the game moved from the original stadium in 1987.
"What a truly wonderful day today is," said Yankees director of program development Mark Holtzman. "It's always good to welcome back family, especially when the family has been away for a few years, but now they're coming back. To the New York Urban League, Hampton University and Morgan State, welcome back my friends."
For Morgan State, the return to Yankee Stadium will truly be a homecoming. They upset Robinson's Grambling State University football team at Yankee Stadium in 1968, during the first historically black football game in New York City.
Soon after, Robinson -- NCAA Divison I football's winningest coach -- developed a strong relationship with Steinbrenner, as Grambling would return to play Morgan State at Yankee Stadium for the New York Urban League Football Classic 10 more times. Grambling never lost another contest.
"So many times when we tell our young men, 'We're on our way to New York, we're going to play in the Urban League,' you make it halfway there and then you pull off in New Jersey," said Morgan State head coach Donald Hill-Eley, who is entering his 11th season at the university.
"We're excited because tradition is back. When you talk about 1968, being a part of something that's called the first, and now we'll be a part of something mentioned again at Yankee Stadium, it makes me proud."
While Morgan State will get to celebrate its return to the hallowed ground where it played many historic contests, this year's game will be Hampton's first at Yankee Stadium.
Despite the fresh partnership, the return of the NYUL tradition to the Bronx isn't lost on Hampton head coach Donovan Rose. He still remembers feeling starstruck when he coached in the NYUL Classic in 1997, glanced over at the sideline and spotted Robinson.
"Now here we are at Yankee Stadium to be a part of these greats and all these traditions; it's a great feeling," Rose said. "Coach Hill and I are very good friends. I've known him for a very long time. I think it's great that we can get together and be a part of something like this."
Since it was opened four years ago, Yankee Stadium has already played host to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, the 50th all-time matchup between Notre Dame and Army in 2010 and an Army-Rutgers game in 2011.
The original Yankee Stadium was also the home to numerous college and professional football classics, serving as the home for the New York Yankees football team and the New York Giants at different times over its history.
The New York Urban League Football Classic has raised over $20 million in Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Scholarships for nearly 4,000 college-bound students since the game's inception. At the press conference to announce the game on Wednesday, the organization presented one of those scholarships to a student who will be attending Stony Brook University to study electromagnetic engineering in the fall.
The New York Urban League was established in 1919 to provide help and support for individuals who were making their way to cities during the great migration from the south to the north. Its mission is to help African-Americans in underserved communities secure a first-class education and economic self-reliance, and to assure equal respect of their civil rights.
"The Football Classic has been a central part of our educational initiatives," said New York Urban League president and CEO Arva Rice. "Our organization has had a long and wonderful standing with the Yankees organization, and we're absolutely thrilled to be welcomed back into this place, where heroes are remembered and legends are born."
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.