MEAC, SWAC champs to meet in Celebration Bowl

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The Mid-Eastern Athletic and
Southwestern Athletic conferences, the two Division I conferences for
historically black colleges and universities, are going back to the future.

The MEAC and SWAC announced Wednesday through ESPN that their conference
football champions will face each other in the newly created Celebration Bowl
on Dec. 19 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game will be broadcast on an
ESPN network.

The two conferences have a long history of playing each other while trying to
decide a national champion in black college football, and the Celebration Bowl
is expected to become an annual event.

In sending its champion to the bowl, the 11-member MEAC will relinquish its
automatic bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs, although the other member schools will
be eligible for at-large bids. Morgan State lost in the first round last year,
continuing a playoff drought for the conference, including some at-large
qualifiers, since 1999.

The 10-member SWAC hasn’t sent a team to the national playoffs since 1997 and
has hosted a conference championship game between its two division winners
since ’99. Alcorn State beat defending champion Southern in last year’s title
game.

But FCS playoff games are not necessarily big money-makers for competing
programs, so the new bowl game figures to deliver financial rewards to the MEAC
and SWAC. A potential $1 million payout is possible for each one and comes
when many HBCU athletic programs are struggling financially.

“This is a great opportunity for our schools and student-athletes to compete on
a national stage and showcase the talent that exists within HBCUs,” SWAC
commissioner Duer Sharp said. “And to have it during bowl season, the most
exciting time in college football, is a bonus.”

Added MEAC commissioner Dennis Thomas, “As part of the conference’s continued
efforts in branding and increasing its exposure on a national platform, I am
elated that champions from the MEAC and the SWAC will compete in a bowl game,
during the most exciting time of the year for collegiate football. ”

The MEAC and SWAC had its champions play each other in the Pelican Bowl in
1972, ’74 and ’75, but the game folded because of poor attendance. The
bowl was followed by the Heritage Bowl from 1991-99, and it drew stronger
attendance but ended after the MEAC preferred to be represented by its
runner-up and instead send its champion to the NCAA playoffs.

A meeting between the two conference champions was discussed five years ago –
and dubbed the Heritage Bowl – but MEAC school presidents voted against
participating in it.

Both conferences send a team to the ESPN-sponsored MEAC-SWAC Challenge on
Labor Day Weekend. This year’s 11th installment on Sept. 6 in Orlando,
Florida, will pit MEAC power South Carolina State against Arkansas-Pine Bluff
from the SWAC.

The Ivy League also doesn’t compete in the FCS playoffs. Moving forward, the
24-team field is expected to be comprised of 10 automatic bids and 14 at-large
bids among the 10 participating conferences.