Celebration Bowl draws mixed response from student-athletes, optimism from MEAC coaches

Since we broke the news that the MEAC and SWAC Champions would be heading to a post-season bowl game last December, it’s been a red-hot topic of debate. The Celebration Bowl is now only a few months away, and it was once-again the focus of attention when the league hosted its annual Media Luncheon in Norfolk on July 31.

The coaches, for the most part, seemed sold on it.

“I think the more you look at it, it’s a great situation for the league,” Norfolk State’s Latrell Scott told reporters. “It’s an opportunity for us to be showcased. Not too many conferences get a chance to play a championship game on ABC.”

Apparently, it took some players a little while to warm up to the idea.

“When they first brought it to our attention we were kind of mad because, as a kid, you know, you have that dream of winning the whole championship and just going through the playoffs and beating big caliber teams, winning, standing up at the podium and getting that trophy,” Norfolk State’s Deon King said.

“But now, it’s actually a pretty good deal. It’s representing us and it’s representing our school and with that kind of money we get from the bowl…it’ll help our school.”

Morgan State coach Lee Hull acknowledged those doubts some of the players may have, but the former Maryland assistant says there is an upside that many players may not yet understand.

“Once they get into the bowl week…like I said, I’ve experienced it eight or nine times,” Hull said. “It’s an unbelievable experience.”

One coach who toed the company line was Hampton’s Connell Maynor. Maynor talked enthusiastically about competing for a national championship despite the fact that the league’s champion is obligated to skip the FCS playoffs.

“You could have two teams go undefeated (in conference play), one will go to the bowl game, the other to the playoffs, so you have the chance to win a bowl game and a national championship.”

Maynor knows a little bit about championships having led Winston-Salem State to the Division II National Title Game in 2012. Still, he understands the importance of the Celebration Bowl to the conference.

In fact, when we asked him would he rather win a playoff game or the bowl game, he gave us a quick, honest answer.

“Both,” he said with conviction before breaking into a smile.

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