Regions Bank Sponsors the annual MCC Team Luncheon



Pam Cook, Director of Multicultural Marketing and Community Affairs at Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, presents Alabama State University graduate student and long snapper Luke Barnes with a one thousand dollar scholarship for his academic achievements.

Kendal Manns, Staff Reporter/Writer

The annual Magic City Classic Regions Bank Team Luncheon was held on Oct. 30 in the East Ballroom of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. 

Both Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University and Alabama State University were presented to the audience and received a standing ovation as they filed into the room. The audience consisted of both university presidents, board of trustees members, and esteemed members of faculty, staff, and students.

Keynote speaker and Alabama State University Alumnus Shannon Sudbury noted the importance of the two institutions for young people. 

“When you talk about HBCUs, put some respect on our names,” Sudbury said. “When a young man of few means and a challenged background or especially a young man of color couldn’t go anywhere else, you could go home to 915 South Jackson, or you could find yourself on a journey up to Normal’s Hill.” 

Sudbury is the current senior director of operations at The Echelon Foundation and works with young men who have been adjudicated in the court system. Earlier in his speech, he asked the players a thought-provoking question, “What are you really playing for tomorrow?” 

He followed this up by talking about the boys he works with, saying, “When I showed them pictures and videos of Alabama A&M and Alabama State, these young men had been told that they could not go to school. They didn’t know that they could make it. They just didn’t understand that they could make that transition. These young men’s lives have been changed.” 

Executive Vice President of Community Affairs for Regions Bank, Leroy Abrahams, greeted the audience and explained its mission to the communities of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). 

“On behalf of Regions Bank, I want to let you know that Regions has been a proud sponsor of HBCUs for several years,” Abrahams said.  “We have associates that have hit the ground running on the campuses across the country not only to provide educational and financial literacy background training but also to just being involved with the students in terms of mentorships and internships.” 

Abrahams also listed plans for the future, saying, “We want to continue that rich tradition of being involved with HBCUs. Not only do we put people on the ground in those places, but we also want to put our money where our mouth is in terms of providing grants and scholarships to those HBCUs.”

With McDonald’s and Coca-Cola sponsoring the Magic City Classic, one of their representatives and son of ASU alumni, Dale Thornton, shared a few words with the audience. 

“At Miles College, we were taught that you stand on the shoulders of those who came before you…It’s good to talk trash about the game and whatnot tomorrow, but let’s keep the focus on education. When you graduate, give back to this university because this university gives back to you,” said Thornton. 

Players and alumni had a lot of feelings going into the 80th annual Magic City Classic. ASU redshirt freshman defensive lineman Devin Chambliss explains his feelings going into his first Classic, saying, “It still feels surreal for me. I’m still a freshman on the field, and it’s my first time experiencing it. It’s a great feeling, and I’m just trying to make the best of it.”

Hornet running back Jacory Merritt will be competing in his second Classic after competing in his first during the spring 2021 season. 

“I feel good. Who wouldn’t want to go out there and get a victory for your school, alumni, and everybody that supports the school?” Merritt said.  “We have a chance to go out and compete with our rival.”

Alumni see the classic as being much bigger than just football. 

Mary Jones Moore is a 1983 graduate of AAMU and is the school’s current National Alumni Association President. 

“I was a cheerleader when I was in school, and I loved the rivalry then, and I love it now,” Moore said.  “I hope that it will continue, but we have to understand that these students are in school to be educated, and there’s nothing like being black and educated.” 

Robert Crenshaw, a 1963 AAMU graduate from Atmore, Alabama, spoke on what this rivalry means to him. 

“It’s a great rivalry,” he said.  “I marched in the band for two years as a student, so I got exposed to it early. This is a great event for HBCUs, and I’ve seen it grow from the times we could not stay in hotels to now we can stay in hotels and have a lot of nice events like this.”

The Director of Multicultural Marketing and Community Affairs at Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Pam Cook, piggybacked  Crenshaw’s sentiment by emphasizing the importance of the player’s influence.

“Your voices, actions, and contributions inspire children, some of whom will one day wear an AAMU or ASU jersey and pursue their athletic and academic dreams,” Cook said. She also awarded ASU’s graduate student, long snapper Luke Barnes, and AAMU’s kicker graduate student Spencer Corey as Coca-Cola Scholar-Athletes for their many academic achievements. 

ASU head coach Donald Hill-Eley and AAMU head coach Connell Maynor were introduced and wasted no time trading friendly jabs at each other in anticipation of their fourth time coaching against each other in the Magic City Classic. Maynor, representing the away team in the Bulldogs, expressed the importance of the game, but also the relationships formed because of it. 

“Me and Coach Eley have a different relationship. We talk every week. We talked a couple of times this week. He knows just how I know he’s going to try and beat my head in, but after the three hours, we’ll be back friends, and that’s all that matters,” Maynor said.

Eley responded in kind to Maynor’s statement. 

“We’ve been dreaming about getting to this game since last spring,” Eley said.  “We’re going to be friends through and through, but we’re going to fight like hell tomorrow. You bring your boys, I bring my boys, and it’s time to get down.”

Both coaches ended the luncheon by giving their gratitude to their presidents, board of trustees, assistant coaches, cheerleaders, royal courts, and student-athletes. They also gave their senior players and cheerleaders going away gifts for their final seasons.