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SWAC gets rid of football title game

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The Southwestern Athletic Conference has decided to end its annual football championship game following the 2017 season.

The winner of the SWAC’s regular-season title will now go directly to the Celebration Bowl and play against the winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl was created in 2015.
SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp said in a release that “by focusing on the Celebration Bowl, we can continue to grow the AFRCB as an (historically black colleges and universities) classic for the teams and fans of both conferences and for HBCU football nationally.”

The SWAC championship game has been played since 1999. The conference said it will work with SWAC members to develop a tiebreaker procedure and deal with schedule changes that might arise from the new format.

The final championship game will be played Dec. 2 at NRG Stadium in Houston. The championship game moved to Houston in 2013, after 14 years at Legion Field in Birmingham.

Beginning in 2018, the SWAC championship will go to the team with the best regular-season conference record.

Jackson State athletic director Wheeler Brown told MSnewsnow.com that eliminating the championship game was a “financial decision” for the league.

Only 24,917 fans watched Grambling beat Alcorn State in last season’s championship game in NRG Stadium. The game drew a crowd of 40,352 in 2015, and had been 38,000 or more each year it has been in Houston. NRG Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Houston Texans, has a capacity of 71,795. The game drew an average of 27,458 fans during its 14-year run in Birmingham.

“I don’t know exactly what the rent is for the stadium, but you can imagine it’s an astronomical amount,” Brown said. “When you look at the numbers and compare the ticket sales, obviously they weren’t evening out, if nothing else. It was a matter of making a financial decision.”