SWAC brings back football championship game

Published 4:42 pm Thursday, July 12, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The SWAC is back in the championship game business.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference has decided to continue holding its football championship game and bring it back to Birmingham.

The league announced Thursday the football championship will return to Legion Field on Dec. 1. The 2019 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be also be held in Birmingham, at Bill Harris Arena next March.

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Both are one-year deals with the city of Birmingham.

“I’m grateful to Mayor Randall Woodfin and the City of Birmingham on this renewed partnership to bring the SWAC football and basketball championships back to the Magic City,” SWAC interim commissioner Edgar Gantt said in a statement “Birmingham is a city rich in sports tradition, particularly with SWAC football, and the city has made many improvements to its sports infrastructure here in Birmingham. This next year will play an important part as the SWAC prepares for its centennial celebration.”

The SWAC had announced last year that it would end the championship game for football after the 2017 game. It decided to keep playing it because of renewed support from member schools.

Earlier this year, a proposal had been floated to play the game at campus sites. It will instead return to its original home in Birmingham.

The football championship was held at Legion Field from 1999 to 2012 before moving to NRG Stadium in Houston. The basketball tournaments were previously held in Birmingham before moving to Houston.

“Birmingham is fully committed to the SWAC, its institutions, leadership, alumni, and student-athletes. As home of the SWAC headquarters, we are proud of the role Birmingham has played as the founding site of the SWAC football championship game and as a longtime destination for the SWAC basketball tournament. We look forward to again hosting SWAC fans for these premiere events,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said.

Grambling beat Alcorn State 40-32 in last year’s football championship game. It was the third consecutive season the two teams have played for the title.

The SWAC does not receive an automatic berth into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and decided in the late 1990s to instead play its own championship game.

Since 2015, the SWAC champion and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion have also met in the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta for the Black College Football national championship. The two leagues are the most prominent HBCU conferences in the country.

The 2018 Celebration Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 15 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.