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Longtime rivals to square off in stadium both schools now call home

Jerrell Jordan / Saint Augustine’s University

Every year in North Carolina, an enduring football rivalry brews between Shaw and Saint Augustine’s, culminating in an epic end-of-the-season showdown, the Raleigh Classic.

Now that battle between the two historically black schools will remain in Raleigh — and the classic will feel like a home game for both teams.

Starting this season, Saint Augustine’swill share its George Williams Athletics Complex with Shaw, thanks to a partnership between the schools. For the past 12 seasons, Shaw players have had to trek 30 miles from campus to play their home games at Durham County Memorial Stadium. Now, their trip will be a short 2 miles.

The idea was the brainchild of George Williams, Saint Augustine’s athletics director and the stadium’s namesake. While there were many factors to consider in sharing the stadium, Williams’ top priority was making sure students of both schools were happy.

“You’ve got to give them the best student experience,” Williams says, “and the best experience is learning how to work together.”

The rivalry between Shaw and Saint Augustine’s graduates runs deep, but so do their ties, as Williams can attest. He is a Saint Augustine’s grad, while his wife, Olivia, went to Shaw. “That’s a rivalry at a home. It doesn’t even start in the field. It starts in my house.”

In such a tight-knit community, there are a lot of potential reactions to consider before finalizing a decision as major as the stadium partnership. Adrian Jones, football coach at Shaw, was particularly concerned with what Shaw alumni would say about their team playing in the stadium of their biggest rival.

“I wanted to make sure the alumni were happy,” Jones says. “So I did my research, talked to a lot of alumni, and everyone was excited about it.”

Athletics leaders at the two schools predict the partnership will send a tremendous message about the importance of historically black colleges and universities supporting one another.

And although they stand together, make no mistake: The pressure is on. This year’s Raleigh Classic will be hosted by Shaw, which means Saint Augustine’s students and alumni will have to sit on the short side of their own field. The event is guaranteed to be a breeding ground for tailgating, social media buzz and a whole lot of trash talking. But when it’s all said and done, the teams will stand in the center of the field and pray together.

Both sides know that a game is just a game, while brotherhood is everything.