Alabama A&M’s new agreement demands may have ‘dire consequences’ for 2023 Magic City Classic

By Roy S. Johnson, Columnist and Director of Content Development for the Alabama Media Group/, the largest news and information site in Alabama.

Sights and more from the Magic City Classic 2022. Alabama State, in a second-half comeback, defeated Alabama A&M 24-17 (

(CORRECTION: The article previously incorrectly identified the winner of the 2022 Magic City Classic. It has been corrected)

As the Alabama State and Alabama A&M football teams headed for their respective locker rooms at Legion Field following the 81st Magic City Classic, a 24-17 ASU victory, discussions were already underway about the future of the historic annual rivalry game in Birmingham.

The 2022 game was the final one played under agreements with the City of Birmingham, which owns Legion Field, and the Alabama Sports Council (ASC), the nonprofit entity that oversees production of the event. After more than five months of arduous, testy, and at times tenuous negotiations, Alabama State has signed new four-year agreements with both entities that would provide each school with an annual payout of $1.2 million, by far the highest in the history of the event.

Alabama A&M, however, with little more than six months until the 2023 Classic, has not yet signed the agreements. Moreover, this week—according to correspondences from the university to the city and ASC and obtained by—the university requested revisions in both agreements that one event official says may have “dire consequences” for this year’s Classic.

The fall contest—a home game for Alabama State—is scheduled for Saturday, October 29th at 2:30 pm.

The agreements extend the alignment and lock in the game at Legion Field through 2026.

In a letter to the office of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin dated April 18, 2023, A&M General Counsel Rochelle A. Conley wrote that the university finds “unreasonable” a provision in the agreement with the city restricting either school from entering into an agreement with a third party regarding the location of the Classic for ninety days following the 2026 game.

“Please forward to my office an amended agreement with the omitted provision,” Conley concluded.

Rick Journey of the mayor’s office, in an email to, said: “We do not discuss negotiations and have no additional comment.”

Regarding the ASC agreement, Conley, in a letter to Gene Hallman, CEO of Eventive (formerly Bruno Event Team), which produces the Classic (including securing sponsors), also dated April 18, 2023, wrote: “At this time, and based upon our current level of understanding, we would feel comfortable moving forward with a two (2) year rather than four (4) year term.”

In an email the following day responding to Conley, also obtained by, Eventive VP Amateur Sports Perren King wrote: “…the result of our review (or the letter) was to continue forward with the long-standing negotiated contract terms of 4 years, which was signed by Alabama State.”

The following day, Conley, in an email wrote: “I believe a face-to-face meeting may bring clarity to the University’s position and may also assist us in reaching an equitable solution.” Conley scheduled the meeting for Tuesday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. at the A&M athletic director’s office.”

Within hours, King responded: “In the highest form of transparency, time is what has my team the most concerned as we sit here without the ability to act on behalf of the event. To be very candid, getting started on an event of this magnitude being this far behind could have dire consequences for the 2023 Magic City Classic.

“[W]e have missed the crucial period to cultivate new sponsors and risk jeopardizing existing revenue partnerships from supporting the event. In response to the request for the 27th, the five months of communications and negotiations, have ASC at a place where we have to be contractually authorized by next Tuesday 25th, to move forward with the MCC … under our signed 4-year agreement.”

On Friday morning, Conley responded in an email: “My client, AAMU remains uncomfortable with executing this Agreement for a term of four years. Unfortunately, we have not been an equal party to communications and negotiations that have been memorialized in the current version of the ASC management agreement. However, due to our long-standing partnership and the historical nature of the MCC, AAMU was initially willing to acquiesce to a contractual term of two years, for which you rejected.

“[S]hould you insist that AAMU execute the MCC–ASC Management agreement on or before Tuesday, April 25th and in an effort not to jeopardize the 2023 Event, we are only willing to sign the management agreement for the 2023 Magic City Classic for a period of one year. We will continue to negotiate in good faith regarding the successive years for the event.”

In a text message to, Hallman said: “We are working intently to determine next steps.”

Added King: “Long process of negotiations and ongoing dialogue right now.”

A&M President Dr. Daniel K Wims would not comment on reasons for the two requests, particularly at this late stage, referring to Conley and Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Planning and Initiatives Jackie Robinson. (Neither, as of this writing, has responded to an email from requesting illumination.)

Wims did describe the requests as “not major things.”

“But from my vantage point, we have a gentleman’s agreement with the mayor and with the President, Alabama State to maintain the event for the next four years in Birmingham at Legion Field,” he said. “We anticipate that happening.”

Alabama State President Quinton Ross said: “The 2023 Classic will be played at Legion Field and we’ll be there. When negotiating, the spirit of compromise reigns high. Otherwise, there’s no need for negotiations. The central goal has always been to improve the fiscal position of both universities with the least amount of risk. To do that everyone had to show good faith and commitment to a long-term contract.

“I strongly believe this (four-year) agreement provides the best opportunity for sustainable growth and benefits for both institutions.”

Per the agreements, the City of Birmingham will pay the universities $500,000 each over the term of the agreement. The institutions would receive a guaranteed minimum of $700,000 from ASC. (In February, the Jefferson County Commission agreed to provide a total of $500,000 to ASC to support its commitment to the 2023 Classic.)

(CORRECTION: The article previously incorrectly identified the winner of the 2022 Magic City Classic. It has been corrected)