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SWAC says Celebration Bowl date change presents ‘challenges’ for conference

SWAC says Celebration Bowl date change presents ‘challenges’ for conference


Amid ESPN moving the Cricket Celebration Bowl up a week to avoid conflict with the new 12-team Football Bowl Series Playoffs, the Southwestern Athletic Conference released a statement Wednesday addressing potential issues that could arise.

At the crux of it is the SWAC championship game that will now be played just a week before the Celebration Bowl.

“From a Southwestern Athletic Conference perspective, participating in the Celebration Bowl the week following our championship game will obviously pose additional challenges for our championship team to be at their optimal capacity to perform at the highest level for such a prestigious event,” the statement reads. “However, we will look to see what, if any, adjustments the Conference Office can make to help our representative have the best opportunity to be successful on the new date and time.”

The SWAC title game celebrates its 25th anniversary this season and has become the conference’s signature event. However, the annual Bayou Classic, between longtime rivals Grambling and Southern, happens each Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans, so it cannot be played before conference play is concluded.

Celebration bowl
Photo: Mandela Jones/HBCU Sports

Florida A&M, the defending SWAC and Celebration Bowl champions, had two weeks between games to prepare before their 30-26 win over Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Howard in Atlanta on Dec. 16.

This year, the SWAC winner will go directly to Atlanta to play the MEAC representative, who will have had three weeks between games, as the last conference game there is scheduled for Nov. 23.

John Grant, executive director of the Celebration Bowl for ESPN Events, explained to HBCU Gameday why and how the schedule change was made.

“It was important to consider venue availability, fan experience, and certainly the student-athlete, which is paramount,” Grant told the website. “We talked to coaches for both conferences, particularly those who had been participants in the Celebration Bowl.  Without question on both sides, they indicated the second weekend would not be detrimental for them to compete.”

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