President of Grambling State University Richard "Rick" Gallot, Jr. speaks during the annual Bayou Classic press conference at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The Battle of the Bands and Greek Show event is on Friday at 7pm and kickoff is Saturday at 4pm. (Photo by Sophia Germer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

This is the second year Southern University and A&M College System President-Chancellor Dennis Shields attended the Bayou Classic at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. It was one of many times that Grambling State University President Rick Gallot attended since he was a child growing up in Grambling, Louisiana. He's been to many in the 50 years the Bayou Classic has been a thing, then a bigger thing, then an even bigger thing. Gallot has been his alma mater's president since 2016, but this is his last Bayou Classic as GSU president.

Next November, when I suspect Shields and Gallot will be at the Bayou Classic, things will be different.

Shields won't be chancellor for the Southern University Baton Rouge campus. Instead, he'd be attending at the president of the Southern University System, which includes campuses in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport. Someone else will be leading the most recognizable Southern system campus in Louisiana as chancellor.

Southern University President-Chancellor Dennis Shields

Southern University President-Chancellor Dennis Shields.

When Gallot attends the 2024 Bayou Classic, he'll be attending as president of the University of Louisiana System, which includes Grambling State, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, University of Louisiana at Monroe and the University of New Orleans.

If things go as Shields and the Southern University System board plan, Shields will drop one of his two jobs. He'd be president of the system, which includes overseeing the leaders of Southern University at New Orleans, Southern University Shreveport, the Southern University Law Center and the Southern University Ag Center.

Shields told me Monday that it's time for someone else to be chancellor of the system's largest institution.

That significant structure change is in the works. A Southern chancellor search is underway. Southern's board expects to name a chancellor in March. The successful applicant will represent the Baton Rouge campus, home of the Southern University Jaguars football team, the Human Jukebox marching band and the fabulous and famous Dancing Dolls.

That doesn't mean Shields won't be there. It's likely he will. As Southern University system president, he's in charge of everything Southern University.

Just because Gallot won't be Grambling State's president next year doesn't mean he won't be there. I'm certain the Grambling State alum and Southern law alum will be at the Caesars Superdome as UL System president.

Two Black Louisiana higher education system presidents will be in the house.

Now, imagine if LSU President William F. Tate IV decides to attend.

That would be three Black Louisiana higher education system presidents for the next Bayou Classic weekend.

Maybe Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed will be joining them. It's not as though she's not familiar with the Classic. She's the daughter of Grambling State alumni and a proud Southern grad. She's been to the Bayou Classic two or three times in her top higher education role, and she has a special 50th Bayou Classic anniversary jacket designed by a group of Southern University students.

I hope people who can make this happen are reading this column so they can start planning for 2024. I think thousands of Black boys and girls, thousands of HBCU and PWI college students and others should see what Black excellence in higher education looks like.

As Doug Williams of the NFL's Washington Commanders said in this newspaper in a Friday guest column, the Bayou Classic means "the world" to many Grambling State and Southern students, faculty, staff and alumni as well as grads of other Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It's a weekend with a good football game televised nationally online and on television for years; several alumni and fundraising events; a band competition and Greek fraternity and sorority step show that's hard to match and more.

A future Southern University chancellor and Grambling State University president will be at the next Bayou Classic. Whoever they are, they'll know that there were other leaders before them and there will be other leaders after them.

The Bayou Classic doesn't belong to any one leader, chancellor or president. It doesn't belong to Grambling State or Southern. It belongs to the thousands of Bayou Classic fans and supporters.

Reaching the 50th anniversary of the Bayou Classic is a worthy accomplishment. It's a good time for our current campus and system leaders to ponder the next 50 years, working with the Louisiana governor, the state Legislature and business and corporate leaders to make sure the event continues.

Email Will Sutton at, or follow him on Twitter, @willsutton.