Reviving The Heritage Bowl: Good Idea Or Nostalgia Gone Bad?

Virginia Union athletic director Joe Taylor wants to revive the Heritage Bowl’s MEAC/SWAC postseason bowl format.

These days, it seems every one has an opinion about how to “fix” black college football. Add Joe Taylor to that list. The Virginia Union athletic director Joe Taylor wants to bring back a format from the 90s.

“Our vision is to bring back the SWAC vs. the MEAC at one o’clock and the CIAA vs. the SIAC at six o’clock,” Taylor said as he spoke at the National Press Club. “Double header in the Georgia Dome. It’s in the center of the footprint for HBCUs.”

Taylor was alluding to two now defunct bowl games–the Heritage Bowl and the Pioneer Bowl. The Heritage Bowl ran from 1991-1999, with teams from the MEAC and SWAC competing against each other. The Pioneer Bowl was an end-of-season matchup between the CIAA and SIAC. The two games were played as a double header in the Georgia Dome in 1999.

Taylor’s proposed matchup would take place the week before Christmas.

“It’ll get people in the Christmas Spirit,” Taylor joked.

While many share the former Hampton University coaches vision of a conference-vs-conference double header, others question how going back to a format that didn’t last for a full decade in the 90s would work in the 21st century.

For one, the proposed Heritage Bowl rebirth would occur during the FCS Championships…which means that the MEAC champion would have to chose between playing in this game or playing in the FCS playoffs.

Considering the MEAC hasn’t won a playoff game since the last year of the Heritage Bowl, it might not be a bad idea. But does anybody think that the champ would neglect the FCS playoffs for a game in the heart of the holiday season?

However, if this game were to generate enough financially, a potential playoff-bound squad might have to chose between making money on this game, or playing Russian Roulette with the FCS playoff system. History says that’s a BIG IF, though. 

The original Heritage Bowl’s attendance was spotty at best. Obtaining and maintaining sponsorship of the game was always an issue, one which eventually led to the game’s demise. What evidence is there that things will be any different now?

Taylor isn’t the first person to talk about reviving the Heritage Bowl format, and he won’t be the last. But unless he and others can find a way to make this extremely financially lucrative for the conferences and schools, don’t hold your breath.

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