SWAC vs MEAC Postseason Bowl Game – AGAIN?

By Sedrick Durr
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer

Does anyone remember the Heritage Bowl during the 1990’s? The classic battle between the Southwestern Athletic Conference Champion and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champion were scheduled to go head to head for a right to call themselvesNational Black College Football Champions. For those who do go back two decades on the gridiron may remember its brief presence and why it no longer takes place. However there have been some rumors that this opportunity may resurface again.

With that in mind, surely that manyblack college fans would straddle the fence on whether or not this is a good idea. After all….everything has its advantages and disadvantages.

The initial advantage of course is to measure the strength of each conference on an annual basis. Secondly this would link the two conferences together for an overall black college experience.

Despite those thoughts there is reality and that’s where some disadvantages can come in.

Although the Heritage Bowl was intended to place champion on champion, the game was diluted on several occasions because some champions would opt out for a run at the Division I-AA playoffs leaving the next in line to compete.

In 1995 and 1996 Jackson State elected to skip the Heritage Bowl in an effort to contend for a national championship. This led Southern to face Howard and Florida A&Min back to back seasons as runner-ups.

Both games took place at the 72000 seat Georgia Dome in Atlanta but only 25000 and 18000 fans turned out for each event respectively. In fact the Heritage Bowl never sold more the 36000 tickets during is near decade long history including an estimated 8000 during the inaugural bowl game in 1991 when Alabama State defeated North Carolina A&T.The regular season Bayou Classic between Grambling and Southern and the Soul Bowl/Capital City Classic between Alcorn and Jackson State would sometimes bring in more than a few of those of those bowl games combined.

Meanwhile in 1994, Alcorn and Grambling shared the SWAC title but the G-Men’s conflict with the Bayou Classic took away any playoff hopes leaving the Braves to face Youngstown State in the first round while they went on to face South Carolina State in the Heritage Bowl.

So here we are again, with the MEAC who has not won a playoff game since 1999 and the SWAC who has never tasted I-AA postseason victory are at least thinking about bowl play for a second time in five years. MEAC officials voted a potential Legacy Bowl down in 2010….but apparently the idea still lingers today. No details however have surfaced about the potential game but conference officials are looking to improve its financial situation according to a January 8 report in the Virginian-Pilot.

Of course the MEAC would have to give up any thought of competing in the playoffs again if such a game resurfaces. The SWAC is already ineligible for I-AA postseason play due to their conference championship game that takes place during the second weekend of December.

Now it’s just a matter of looking at the risk versus the reward. At the moment the decision appears to be a tossup.