ATLANTA– The MEAC/SWAC Challenge wasn’t set to kick off until the evening, but fans of college football in general and HBCU football in particular rolled up to watch College Gameday on Saturday morning. The ESPN show was anchored outside of Center Parc Stadium where Alcorn State and North Carolina Central are set to open an HBCU football season that didn’t happen last fall.
While the MEAC/SWAC Challenge features the two schools mentioned above, the Gameday crowd was filled with fans and alumni from other schools as well.
Eric Scott is a proud Southern University alumnus, and recent transplant from New Orleans to Atlanta. His Jaguars won’t take the field for another week, but he felt compelled to come out and soak in the atmosphere. And support the SWAC.
“The SWAC is special because it’s a family, it’s a brotherhood,” he said. “We’re enemies on the field, but we’re brothers and sisters once we walk off. And that’s band, football, it’s everything — we love each other.”
Alcorn had solid representation on its own, though.
Erica Dillon-Echols and her husband James made a five-plus hour drive from Southhaven, Mississippi to cheer on their favorite school and their daughter at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge.
“Attending is a family legacy. Our daughter is a cheerleader, so we’re here to support her and we’re here to support the Braves,” she explained. “It’s been a family tradition since I was little. I only had one choice and it was Alcorn and it was the best one. So to all the incoming seniors, come on home.”
North Carolina A&T is no longer in the MEAC, but that didn’t stop several Aggies from showing up. One of whom was part of a group of folks with a message deeper than conference affiliation or football itself.
“It’s more than just a game. It’s a legacy. It’s all of our tradition and passion that goes back to our legacy of lifting as we climb. HBCU football is more than just a game.”
The crowd was filled with more than HBCU supporters, however. There was a heavy presence of Georgia PWIs (predominately white institutions) as well as college football fans of random schools.
Without question, the biggest attraction for the fans behind the scenes was the hit rap group “Migos.” The trio performed some new hits and finished the event off with one of their trademarks “Bad and Bougie,” much to the delight of the crowd.
It was a solid start to the first HBCU Gameday of the year in the city where it will all come to a head in a few months.