Playing at Bragg Stadium will create cherished memories

Members of FAMU’s cheerleading squad were on hand when Kerri Post, Director of Leon County Division of Tourism, announced that the state high school football championships will be held at Bragg Stadium.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
County Commissioner Nick Maddox said memories of playing at Bragg Stadium will last a lifetime.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

A few years before becoming a standout running back at Florida State University, Nick Maddox experienced something as a high school player that has never been trumped.

That was in 1997 when he played in the North Carolina state high school football championships. The cherished memory for Maddox, now a Leon County Commissioner, stems from the games being played in Kenan Stadium on the campus of UNC in Chapel Hill.

“What I remember about that game was how big it was for me to play in a college stadium,” Maddox said, standing on the Ken Riley Field at Bragg Stadium. “One thing that the players and parents will never forget is where they played their state championship games, whether they won it, lost it, tied it or go into overtime. Every single moment of that day will be remembered for the rest of their lives.”

During Dec. 7-9, high school football players in nine classifications will have that experience. The Florida High School Athletic Association and Visit Tallahassee announced last Thursday that the state title games will be played at Bragg Stadium.

It will be the first time in 45 years that FAMU will be the site of state championship football.  Bragg Stadium also was the venue for the small school state championship game in 1976. Last year, Gene Cox Stadium was host site for the 1A-3A and 1M, 1S, 2S, and 1R championships. The 2020 1A-8A championships were played at Doak Campbell Stadium. 

The announcement came just days after FAMU was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the top public Historic Black College and University for five years. Installation of a new video board was completed just weeks prior and last year the stadium renovated.

 Capacity at the stadium is 20,000. Three games will be played each day.

More than 30,000 student-athletes, coaches and fans are expected to come to town during the championships. It is also anticipated that the event will have an $11 million economic impact.

“I can’t think of a greater place to have our football finals this year,” said FHSAA Executive director Craig Damon. “On behalf of the association, I say thank you for what you did.”

The agreement to bring the games to Bragg Stadium is a one-year deal. Another round of bidding is likely for next year’s venue after reclassification of FHSAA programs is completed, Damon said.

There is a bit of irony with this year’s championships taking place at a HBCU. It is the 55th anniversary of a merger between the Florida High School Athletic Association and the Florida Inter-Scholastic Athletics Association, which was for Black programs from 1932 to 1968.

Tiffani-Dawn Sykes, FAMU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, noted that the three days of exposure to FAMU’s campus could be a great recruiting opportunity.

“We have so much to be proud of and we want everyone to see it. At FAMU we say that we brag differently so this certainly allows us to show what we are bragging about.”

FAMU has been a part of the site selection conversation for several years, Damon said. With no prior host making a bid, he put FAMU back in the mix to host the games.

Sykes credited associate athletic director Mike Smith for crafting a winning bid.

“When you’re going through a bid process, people want to make sure that people are going to have an excellent experience and we are able to deliver that,” Sykes said. “We are really committed to make sure that everyone who comes to our field, no matter what the event is, has a first-class experience.”

The championship games will be coming at a time when occupancy is usually down for hotels in the area. It will also generate business for local restaurants and shops.

Kerri Post, Director of Leon County Division of Tourism (Visit Tallahassee), said the announcement of the games is “big, momentous event.”

She added: “This is indeed a big day for Tallahassee and Leon County. As we prepare to host all nine state football championships, it’s really a moment of pride for our community.”


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