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SWAC directs focus on winning the Celebration Bowl

SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland explains that all roads to the Celebration Bowl are not equal.

SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland explains the reasons for the SWAC’s Celebration Bowl struggles, but his argument may fall on deaf ears.


While speaking at SWAC Media Day in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. McClelland suggests that the SWAC has a more difficult road to the de facto HBCU national championship than the MEAC due to the demanding season and championship game.

Sy’Veon Wilkerson runs against North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.
Sy’Veon Wilkerson runs against North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.

“Not being able to win that Celebration Bowl is a product of our regular season. There are no weeks off, you can’t look ahead, and you can’t study who that MEAC winner was. You know, because you have to concentrate on next week, then you have to concentrate on the championship game, and then concentrate on the Celebration Bowl.” Dr. Clelland explained to Tolly Carr.


In the SWAC’s 12-team conference, each team plays eight conference games, three non-conference games, and a championship game, unlike the MEAC, which has six teams that play five conference games and six non-conference games and no championship game.


Dr. McClelland also points out that the SWAC championship game has a stronger financial significance, and the winner is playing in that championship game before playing in another championship game in the Celebration Bowl.

“The championship for the SWAC is a more important feat than a win in the Celebration Bowl. I’m not saying that’s the case for the schools but to be able to don SWAC champions is a significant thing and is a huge revenue generator.”


He explains that schools who play in the SWAC Championship game have earned a great amount of revenue.


“I don’t wanna talk Jackson State business; I always say this, I don’t ask for their books, but I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Jackson State made more money off of the championship game than they got in a payout for going to the Celebration Bowl.”

Grambling’s Charles Wright celebrates his team’s win at The Celebration Bowl.
Grambling’s Charles Wright celebrates his team’s win at The Celebration Bowl.

Despite the money generated, Dr. McClelland adds that Jackson State had many issues that they had to overcome leading up to the big game against North Carolina Central University. He also suggests that the Celebration Bowl is the MEAC’s championship game.


In its seven years of existence, the MEAC has six wins to the SWAC’s one. The last SWAC Celebration Bowl win was in 2016, when Grambling State University defeated last year’s champion North Carolina Central 10-9. Since then, the MEAC has won the last five games.


When the Celebration Bowl arrives, each team’s path and history is irrelevant. Once the game begins, both teams have the opportunity to play their best game to win a championship. Dr. McClellan recognizes that because the reasons for the SWAC’s lack of victories are just excuses.


“It might sound like an excuse, probably is, because when you line up and play, you gotta play.”


The MEAC and SWAC champions will line up and play again for the 8th annual Celebration Bowl on December 16th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

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