The SWAC football championship game may come up in sports trivia one day as the event that was officially eliminated but never ended. Almost two years to the day that the conference announced its football championship was gone for good, it announced it’s back for good. The news comes on the heels of the annual SWAC Spring Meetings.
As a bit of a refresher, former SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp announced on June 13, 2017, that the conference would dash its championship game after the 2017 season in an effort to promote the Celebration Bowl. The SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors would quickly do a 180-degree turn on the matter, however.
Less than six months later the Council decided to part ways with Sharp and reinstate the game it had decided to drop. The championship was brought back for a two-year run and moved to on-campus venues after a scheduling conflict over Legion Field with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. That set of circumstances landed the SWAC Championship between Southern University and Alcorn State in Lorman, MS and may have altered SWAC history forever.
“The championship game held this past season on the campus of Alcorn State University was truly an electric atmosphere and further highlighted the overall value of our leagues’ title game as it relates to brand exposure, visibility, and revenue generation,” said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland.”
“The SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors saw that same value and voted to reinstate the game on a permanent basis. The conference office is extremely excited to be able to host an event that positively impacts not just the two member institutions on the field but also our league as a whole. We also couldn’t be more excited to have the ability to bring the game into the homes of millions via our broadcast agreement with ESPN,” said McClelland.
New home to be announced soon
The 2019 SWAC Football Championship game is scheduled to once again be held on the campus of the highest seeded team but that may not be the plan moving forward.
The SWAC will announce future sites of the football championship along with the men’s and women’s basketball championships at next month’s football media day.
Playoffs, We’re talking Playoffs
The football schedule will take on an additional conference game beginning in 2020 as well. The 2019 SWAC football schedule will consist of seven league games per institution, in 2020 the league will move to an eight-game conference slate. Part of the hope is that a SWAC team who doesn’t make the Celebration Bowl but has a decent enough season might still make the FCS Playoffs. No SWAC team has made it to the NCAA postseason since 1997 when Jackson State was picked as an at large selection. Southern and Grambling are never in the mix because of the timing of the Bayou Classic and the first round weekend of the NCAA playoffs.
“As a key part of our strategic plan towards raising the overall profile of our league in the sport of football, the implementation of an eight-game conference schedule was one of the first steps we needed to take to achieve that goal,” said McClelland.
“This initial step along with future implementation strategies will increase the likelihood of SWAC football teams qualifying for the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs via an at-large selection if they don’t qualify to participate in the Celebration Bowl.”
An HBCU has not won the FCS football championship since Florida A&M University did in 1978, which was the first year the NCAA split into two separate Division I classifications.