SLIDESHOW: How The Soul Bowl Lost Its Mojo

Nov 13, 2012

Last Friday night, the Miami Northwestern Bulls defeated the Miami Jackson Generals 21-13 in one of Miami-Dade's most famous high school football rivalries. Known as the "Soul Bowl," the two historically black schools used to draw tens of thousands of spectators to the old Orange Bowl. But over the last decade or so, the rivalry has been losing steam.

"We wishing Jackson the best," said Larry Williams, president of the Northwestern alumni association, "and hope that they can continue to do well so we can get back up to the level of rivalry that we once had and the attendance-wise."

It's not the kind of trash-talk you'd expect from a decades-old rivalry. Of late, it hasn't been much of a competition. Northwestern has beaten Jackson in the last 10 Soul Bowls, in many cases shutting Jackson out completely.

But the disparity doesn't just show up on the scoreboard.

First there are the uniforms: Northwestern has custom Nike uniforms - Jackson does not.

Northwestern runs out onto the field through their own inflatable tunnel - Jackson just runs onto the field.

Northwestern even has a star coach: hip-hop icon Luther Campbell is the school's defensive coordinator.

There are a few theories about what happened.

Larry Williams, the Northwestern grad and alumni association president, said his school's alumni base is simply more active. "[We've] tried to make sure that our own children went back to the schools and helped support it."

Jeff Allen, a 1974 Jackson grad and football player, points to shifting demographics. The historically black Jackson is now only 35% black and 63% Hispanic. "And the major sport with many of those guys," Allen said, "would be soccer or other sports."

And then there's Booker T. Washington Senior High. "Which used to be a part of this rivalry along time ago," said Andre Fernandez, the Miami Herald's high school sports editor.

Booker T. Washington, in Overtown, closed down in 1967 during desegregation and became a junior high school. After that, most of the inner-city football talent was split between Northwestern and Jackson.

Fernandez said when Booker T. Washington reopened as a high school in 1999, it hurt Jackson's football program way more than it hurt Northwestern's.

"A lot of the talent in the Overtown-Allapattah area started to go to Booker T again," said Fernandez. "Private schools have gotten better, a lot of kids have gone there. So all those factors and a couple of coaching changes have hurt the stability a little bit."

But even after 10 years of shaky attendance and one-sided wins, the Soul Bowl still has the DNA of a great rivalry.

As one Jackson alum put it, even if we lose every other game all season, as long as we beat Northwestern, "we're good."