On Saturday, December 19, HBCU football will make history when the champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) face-off in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl game on ABC at noon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The North Carolina A&T Aggies will represent MEAC and the Alcorn State Braves will represent SWAC in this nationally televised game-changing historical event. What makes the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl historical? It is the first nationally televised championship football bowl game played by Division I HBCU schools. The inaugural game will kick-off the entire college bowl season, playing the first game of many to come.
The nationally televised game has been a long time coming for black college football, which debuted in 1892. The Air Force Celebration Bowl will provide the champions of the MEAC and the SWAC, and their alumni, fans and sponsors a first-class bowl experience while continuing to celebrate the legacy, values and traditions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Events surrounding the game include a kickoff luncheon and community outreach and family events.
In March 2015, ESPN’s Jay Harris announced the newly created bowl game with MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis Thomas, MEAC Commissioner and SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp, and Ceasar C. Mitchell, president of Atlanta City Council.
Commissioner Sharp stated, “This is a great opportunity for our schools and student-athletes to compete on a national stage and showcase the talent that exists within HBCUs. And to have it during bowl season, the most exciting time in college football, is a bonus,” said Sharp.
Commissioner Thomas added, “As part of the conference’s continued efforts in branding and increasing its exposure on a national platform, I am elated that champions from the MEAC and the SWAC will compete in a bowl game, during the most exciting time of the year for collegiate football. Our continued partnership with ESPN will give our coaches, student-athletes and fans an opportunity to participate in an exciting bowl game, on a national stage, which will showcase their institutions and talented football programs. Adding a national television opportunity for our champion, during this time of year, only furthers our branding and marketability.”
At a recent party, Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Executive Director John Grant offered a historical perspective of the event with the first HBCU football game played in the snow between Biddle College (now Johnson C. Smith University) and Livingstone College on December 27, 1892, two days after Christmas.
Grant offers, “The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl is the first game of the first day of the college bowl season so we open up the college bowl season which is significant. When you think about the 123 year history of HBCU football, it speaks to the tenacity of the schools. Livingstone College and Biddle College (now Johnson C. Smith University) squared off in that game on a homemade football field and Biddle won 5-0. The women students in the textile school at Livingstone made the uniforms and the young men who were players put cleats in their dress shoes to play the game. Their determination and commitment to this game led us to this nationally televised bowl game 123 years later.”
The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl will be played at noon on December 19 and televised on ABC. Check your local listings for channel information. Read more of TBW’s coverage of the Air Force Celebration Bowl here.