Morgan State coach Ricky Diggs has never had to stare across a football field into the eyes of an opposing coach with nearly 400 victories.
But on Sept. 17, Diggs and the Bears will be on one side of the field at Memorial Stadium, ready to face the legendary Eddie Robinson and his Grambling State Tigers in the first meeting between the two schools in 11 years.
Both coaches and Jim Speros, owner of Baltimore's Canadian Football League team, announced the game yesterday during a news conference at the stadium.
"Every coach doesn't have an opportunity to prepare his team against the winningest coach in college football, and I feel honored to have that opportunity," said Diggs, 40, who is 6-27 in three years.
"What we want to do is to give you a show," said Robinson, 75, who has 388 victories in 53 years. "I believe this could be a great game."
Kickoff time has not been set, but the game will not conflict with
Speros' CFLs, who play at Saskatchewan the next day. The CFL-sized field will be reconfigured to conform to college standards.
The game will resume the tradition of the Grambling State-Morgan State Classic, an annual clash that began in 1968. The series actually dates to 1946, when the Bears won the first meeting, 35-0.
The game also fulfills a wish of Speros, who said he wanted to play host to a major college football game at Memorial Stadium.
"I looked in the record books and looked at tradition," he said. "It's an honor for me to welcome this game."
To bring the schools together, Speros collaborated with Russ Potts, president of Sports Production Inc. and a Republican state senator from Virginia who has known Robinson for many years. Potts talked six months ago to Robinson, who discussed the idea with Diggs, and both coaches agreed to play the game.
Potts said ticket prices for the game will range from $5.50 to $19.50. He said 2,000 tickets will be donated to the Baltimore Recreation Department so underprivileged children can see the game.
For the record, Grambling State is 14-2 against Morgan State. The last time the schools met was in 1983 at Yankee Stadium in New York, where the Tigers routed the Bears, 33-0. Grambling State has won the past 14 meetings since it lost to the Bears, 9-7, in 1968.
"Morgan hasn't won this game since the first time they kicked this classic off [in 1968]," said Diggs, whose Bears were 3-8 last season. "We're going into this game with the attitude that we have every opportunity to win the game just like Grambling."
But Diggs said he does not expect his counterpart to change his style.
"He's going to be hardnosed," Diggs said. "He's going to play what I like to call 'smashmouth' football. They're going to line up and come right at you."
Robinson, whose Tigers were 7-4 last season, had words of his own.
"We're going to come out smoking," he said with a smile. "That's the only way I know how to come out."