The Celebration Bowl Makes History
Historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, have been around for a long time. Back before the days of television, they used to get as many star football players as did big colleges and universities. But over the years, the landscape of college football has changed. Bigtime college football has taken over and many elite athletes go there to play their college football because of the money involved and the television exposure. As far as HBCUs, there are many that are now struggling to even keep their doors open along with not getting the elite players they used to in the past. But even with that, HBCUs are still loved by many. And this past weekend, the inaugural Celebration Bowl kicked off. The bowl game is set up to match the two top teams in the HBCU polls for a chance at the Black College National Championship. The game, which matched the Alcorn State Braves of the Southwestern Athletic Conference against the North Carolina A&T Aggies of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, was a great one that went down to the wire. In the end, the Aggies were able to hold off the Braves 41-34 and win the Celebration Bowl and the Black College Football national title. But the Celebration Bowl was not just a bowl game but history.
Both Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T are Football Championship Series (formerly 1-AA football) teams. Those teams usually have to win their conferences to play in the playoffs and have a chance at the FCS title. But the SWAC, which is the conference that Alcorn State won this year, does not have an automatic bid in the FCS. So this essentially was their title game right here. And for North Carolina A&T, their conference, the MEAC, decided that they were going to relinquish their FCS playoff appearance for this game, which was huge. Over time, there have been games that have pitted the SWAC vs the MEAC, starting with the Pelican Bowl in 1972, 1974 and 1975. The matchup was revived in 1991 and ran until 1999, but then it went away. With it now returning and with the power of ESPN behind it, the groundwork is there for a successful product to display to the world. And with a successful product on the field, that now puts HBCUs in rarified air. The MEAC and the SWAC are the only conferences at the FCS level that have an organized bowl game.
But the organization of the game is just a piece of the puzzle here. With this game and the affiliation with ESPN, there is now a hope for finances to be pumped into the SWAC and MEAC conferences. The additional funds can help the football programs of these schools with better facilities. But it can also help the actual schools general. There have been some HBCUs struggle financially over the years due to a myriad of different issues. With this bowl game, hopefully the commissioners over these conferences could spread this money amongst its members so they can take care of their students even better than they are able to now. Or it could maybe help students who need the financial help to go to school. The sponsorship from the Air Force Reserves should definitely give them a good chunk of money to spread among the conferences. And over time, the money involved should increase.
The Black College National Title was thrilling and came down to the last minute. And what was just as exciting as the game was the history that was made. The Celebration Bowl has the makings of a great things not only for the teams involved, but for the conferences and the fans. The main thing that can provide sustained success is the support of the fans and if that happens, then the Black College National Title game will continue to get bigger and bigger.