Big 33 History, Success & Impact
From giving back to featuring future Super Bowl stars to uplifting our youth with special needs to recognizing our military & veterans to exciting football and making a major investment in tourism in Central PA & beyond, The Big 33 Football Classic brings us all together to honor a nearly 70-year tradition!!!
What Is the Big 33 Football Classic?
Originating in 1957, the Big 33 Football Classic is one of the nation’s finest scholastic All-Star Football Games, currently showcasing Pennsylvania and Maryland’s premier football players. Now into its sixth decade, the Football Classic is often described as “The Super Bowl of High School Football.” It is a game rich in both history and tradition. Many Big 33 Football Classic players and cheerleaders propel to college careers and so many players have successful careers in the NFL. There has never been a Super Bowl played without a former Big 33 player on the roster. We are proud to continue a long tradition of 57 straight Super Bowls with former participants of the Big 33 Football Classic. Some of our most well-known alums include: Matt Millen, Joe Montana, Joe Namath, John Cappelletti, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Rocket Ismail, Kerry Collins, Kyle Brady, Orlando Pace, Antonio Freeman, Ed McCaffrey, Marvin Harrison, Curtis Martin, Ricky Watters, Ben Roethlisberger, Robbie Gould, Damar Hamlin and Miles Sanders. More than 140 former Big 33 players have played in a Super Bowl. No other all-star game can make that claim!
The annual Big 33 Football Classic event brings both substantial economic and social impact to our Commonwealth. Each year, Pennsylvania and Maryland square off in “The Super Bowl of High School Football.” In addition to the All-Star game, the Big 33 weekend also consists of a Welcome Picnic, Pep Rally, Recognition Ceremony, Youth Cheer and Football clinics, Military Recognition, Fan Experience and several activities for individuals with special needs and diverse backgrounds.
The Memorial Day weekend Big 33 Football Classic game is televised live in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and viewed on National programming Streams. In addition to the television broadcast and live streams, game attendance for the Football Classic is approximately 10,000 families and spectators traveling to Central PA for weekend festivities. All of this significantly boosts the local economy and support for businesses in surrounding communities.
More Than Just A Game!
But the Big 33 experience extends beyond the game. It provides opportunities for the entire community with a major focus on our youth. In addition to the football players, coaches and support staff, we also have All-Star Cheerleaders, Big 33 Buddy Teams, Big 33 Host Families, and Big 33 Youth Clinics, plus great opportunities for our sponsors.
Over 100 cheerleaders from all over the states of PA and MD try out for the opportunity to be part of the Big 33 Cheer Team. Tryouts are held in January and the team is selected in February. Cheerleaders start practicing in April to prepare for their exceptional half-time routine. Cheerleaders participate with the Big 33 Cheer Buddy Program and also run the Youth Cheer Clinic. Like all our Big 33 athletes, the strength, agility, and talent of our Big 33 Cheerleaders is second to none.
Big 33 Buddy Teams
Perhaps the greatest part of the Big 33 experience is the Buddy Program. The Big 33 Buddy Program is an inclusive program, which pairs individuals with special needs with Big 33 Players and Cheerleaders. We have special Buddy events during Memorial Day weekend for players and cheerleaders to form lasting friendships and create lifelong memories with their Big 33 Buddies. In addition, our Cheer Buddy Team has the opportunity to perform part of the halftime routine with the Big 33 Cheerleaders; and the Player Buddies are introduced on the field with their players for the Pre-Game Introductions. While the Big 33 Football Classic is the pinnacle event for the Buddy Teams, it does not stop there. Our goal is to have four events throughout the year for the Big 33 Buddy Teams: October – Mini Golf Buddy Event; January – Buddy Bowling; March – Buddy Gala; May – Big 33 Football Classic.
Another unique part of the Big 33 experience is the Host Family Program, where the players, and some of the cheerleaders, spend their time in Central PA living with local families. Every year, Host Families open their homes and hearts to welcome their Big 33 players. Host Families “adopt” their player(s) for Memorial Day Weekend and make sure the players are at practices on time, are fed well, and they show them around the community and share local venues with them. Many Host Families follow their player(s) during their college and professional careers. Players consider staying with a host family their “home away from home” and consider them a second family.
Opportunities are available for local youth to attend Big 33 Youth Cheer and Football Clinics. The Cheer Clinic is organized and run by the Big 33 Cheer Team/Coaches and the Football Clinic is organized and run by a Big 33 partner, Ron Johnson (Rising Stars Football Academy). In 2023 there were over 150 youth in attendance for these Clinics. Youth who attend are also invited to attend the Big 33 Football Classic and are recognized during the game.
Strong Social and Economic Impact!
With all of the weekend events for so many groups of people, the Big 33 provides a substantial economic impact to the region. This economic impact exceeds an estimated $2.7 million and over 1600 hotel rooms. The economic impact reaches our restaurants, shops, and other locally-owned businesses.
We recognize the importance of events like the Big 33 Football Classic in fostering youth development and providing opportunities for young athletes to succeed. The Football Classic offers a unique opportunity for our participants to take part in a program that shows the importance of the value of building community, working together, and playing and living for a cause greater than oneself. We also are proud to recognize and honor our Military and Veterans. During Big 33 Weekend, we provide opportunities for our participants to meet with Veterans, we have a special military-focused recognition during the game, and offer FREE admission to the Big 33 Football Classic for all who have served or are currently serving our country.
Exposure and Marketing/Media Reach & Partnership Success!
Marketing and Media Partnerships
Big 33 is covered, discussed and “THE” community buzz all across Pennsylvania and Maryland, with more frequent regular focus from our Media Friends throughout Central PA. From Team/Roster announcement in early February, through Memorial Day weekend Big 33 events and the Football Classic, reporters, anchors, social media influencers and podcast hosts cover various aspects of Big 33 and of our TOP athletes, cheerleaders and buddies. In fact, every single media outlet in Central PA reported on the game for weeks and produced wonderful features about this popular competition and weekend activities. This year, Fox 43 Sports created and aired a television special highlighting diverse aspects of the Big 33 Football Classic several times.
We reach an audience of over 15+ million people just through the pre-game media stories we generated, NOT including social media posts or the game broadcast or livestreams or re-runs of the game on our website. We are proud of the partnerships we’ve established and of the outstanding media coverage and exposure given to Big 33, with well over 150 stories and programs generated by feature, news and sports journalists JUST this year. In addition, Big 33 is mentioned on major television and radio stations through public service announcements continuously for weeks. We are grateful to all of our Media friends for helping to showcase and shine a light on our extremely talented youth and on the Big 33!
Fans & Families & Miss PA Join Us!
We love giving our fans, families and other inspirational leaders throughout the state the opportunity to join in the fun! Each year, we invite Miss PA, our state’s Adjutant General, and other state and military leaders. Our Fan Experience features family-fun activities for all ages, including military components. Our illustrious Big 33 Alum return for the Big 33 Game. We enjoy hosting our amazing sponsors and their co-workers, statewide media, sports enthusiasts, families and fans, youth leagues and coaches. Our sponsors take advantage of a diverse array of recognition and marketing opportunities at all levels to a diverse audience. We appreciate all of our sponsors for their incredible support, which allows us to continue this nearly 70-year tradition for our youth and for Pennsylvania.
What is Ahead for 2023-24?
Planning is underway for the 67th Big 33 Football Classic, to be held on Sunday, May 26th 2024. Here is the tentative schedule of events for the year:
- July 28, 2023 – 4th Annual PSFCA Big 33 Golf Scramble @ Dauphin Highlands Golf Course
- October 1, 2023 – 3rd Annual Buddy Mini Golf @ Liberty Forge
- November 2023 through December 2023 – Nominations for the PA Big 33 Team
- Selection of Big 33 Cheer Team
- Annual PSFCA Coaches Clinic
- Selection of Big 33 MD Team
- Big 33 Capitol Celebration
- Host Family Draft
- Cheer Practice begins
- Players Practice begins
- PSFCA East/West All-Star Classic Games
- Big 33 PA & MD Players & Cheerleaders arrive for Game Weekend
- Big 33 Activities and Events (Welcome Picnic, Pep Rally, Recognition Ceremony, Youth Cheer and Football clinics, Buddy Events, Military Recognition, Fan Experience)
- 67th Big 33 Football Classic