Since the MEAC’s inception in the 1970s, the conference had tried to measure itself against the more-established SWAC. There was the short-lived Pelican Bowl in the 1970s and then the Heritage Bowl in the 1990s.
With both Division I HBCU conference’s both inking television deals with ESPN in the mid-2000s, the MEAC/SWAC Challenge was born. The game’s goal was to showcase the best of the two HBCU conferences in Division I-AA (at the time).
The inagural game between the two programs was a classic in the truest sense of the word. The game went into overtime and resulted in Hampton (remember them in the MEAC) outlasting Grambling 27-26 on a blocked PAT attempt in overtime.
Winston-Salem State wallops A&T in upset
Winston-Salem State and North Carolina A&T are about 30 minutes away from each other, and played pretty regularly from the 1940s through the late 1990s. But the MEAC’s mandate for only one Division II game a year left WSSU the odd man out of the trio that involved NC Central.
Seven years later, with WSSU attempting to make a move up to Division I, the rivalry was reborn. The first-ever Battle of I-40 Classic in Greensboro broke a non-homecoming game record for attendance. The visiting team, newcomers fresh out of the CIAA, dominated the game for a 41-14 win.