MOBILE, Ala (WKRG) – The Senior Bowl’s executive director said Monday that the game’s change from a North vs. South format is to avoid “insensitive” Civil War imagery, and was made with this past summer’s social justice protests in mind.
“Everything that our country was going through, if you didn’t look yourself in the mirror personally and in your line of work and see how you could maybe do things better, I don’t think you were doing it right,” Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy told WKRG News 5. “So it was a time of reflection for me and it probably was for everyone, and I just thought the best thing to do was change up those names.”
This year’s game will feature teams called “American” and “National.”
“Still very patriotic,” Nagy added.
Nagy said he made the move with the blessing of the board of Mobile Arts and Sports Association, the non-profit organization that operates the game.
The Senior Bowl has used a North vs. South format since its inception in 1950, with the exception of three years: 1991-1993. At the time, the game was having difficulty selling out and organizers thought that by putting Auburn players on one squad and Alabama players on the other, they could generate more ticket sales. Teams were called “AFC” and “NFC” based on the NFL staff coaching the teams.
The format was extremely unpopular with fans and the game returned to a North vs. South format in 1994. In that game, South quarterback Stan White of Auburn threw a last-minute, game-winning, touchdown to Alabama’s Kevin Lee, delighting the fans at Ladd Stadium.