Three things we liked and didn’t like about The Celebration Bowl

The first-ever Celebration Bowl is in the books. Here are three things that I liked about the game.

1. The game 

From start to finish, you couldn’t have asked for a better game to start off a new bowl series. The game opened up with big plays on special teams, and Tarik Cohen put on a show all game long. Alcorn State could have faded away, down by 15 in the first quarter, but it managed to get back into the game and had a chance to win before Tarik Cohen and the A&T defense finished the deal.

2. SWAC fan support 

North Carolina A&T is roughly three times the size of Alcorn State based on student population at the moment. When you factor those types of figures into alumni and proximity (Atlanta is approximately 1.5 hours closer to Greensboro than it is to Lorman, MS) a person unfamiliar with HBCU sports would think that A&T would have a bigger presence than Alcorn. From all accounts, including the eyeball test, that wasn’t the case at all. There was purple and gold all over Atlanta, and most of it was not Omega Psi Phi paraphernalia.

There were also a sizeable amount of supporters from other schools in the SWAC, particularly Jackson State. I didn’t get the sense that there were nearly as many North Carolina Central fans driving from, say Charlotte or Durham, even though the trip from Jackson is even longer. When it comes to showing up to the game and making noise while there, the SWAC is well ahead of the MEAC.

3. Tarik Cohen

Whatever happens going forward, Cohen cemented his status as a black college football legend on Saturday. His numbers were ridiculous. 295 yards. Three touchdowns. Three scoring runs of 70 yards or more. And the crazy thing is, he’s still got one more year to terrorize the MEAC, and whoever else lands on A&T’s schedule.

Now for three things I didn’t like…

1. Calling the Celebration Bowl an HBCU national championship game

Now if you saw the broadcast, commercials or postgame banter, you saw this game being billed as an HBCU National Championship. Just because ESPN said it does not make it true. Remember, ESPN put this game together. It’s their network. So of course to get as much buzz as possible, they’ll call it a national championship game. The lines between journalism and product promotion were virtually non-existent.

It is not an HBCU national championship game for the simple reason that all HBCUs are not eligible to go. There are two other conferences made up mostly of HBCUs, the CIAA and the SIAC. Of course, those conferences participate in at the Division II level vs. the MEAC and SWAC’s FCS level, but they are also HBCUs so you can’t have a national championship game that every HBCU isn’t eligible for. Even if you wanted to make it an FCS national championship game, you’d still be leaving out Tennessee State, which competes in the Ohio Valley Conference.

That’s not to say A&T shouldn’t be the HBCU champs. But what if Tennessee State gets into the playoffs and makes a run, or a team in Division II makes a run at a national title? How could you claim they weren’t HBCU champs based on a bowl game they can’t qualify for?

2. Noon start time

The Celebration Bowl was broadcast live on ABC, which is huge for any FCS teams, let alone HBCUs. It also kicked off the bowl season, which was pretty cool. But a 2 P.M. start would have given the crowd a little more time to fill in compared to the noon kickoff. Especially with a sizeable chunk of people traveling in from out of town who likely hung out overnight in Atlanta.

3. No halftime broadcast

Look, no one understands the importance of the on-the-field product at HBCUs better than us. But for the casual fan, band performances are a big part of the appeal of black college football. ABC/ESPN has to accommodate the sponsors, but the fans on TV want to see the bands.



  1. VeeDubb

    December 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Well written and great points! A must share!

  2. AGB

    December 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    the officiating was horrible.

  3. Julius Coxswain

    December 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    While I respect CIAA and SIAC football, there is absolutely no way the champion of those conferences would beat the MEAC or SWAC champion. Zero. None. Tennessee State, however, is a different story. TSU has been the best HBCU football team in many of the recent years and I am glad the Tigers are still eligible for the FCS playoffs.

  4. Ms. E. West

    December 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Great article.

  5. Chad "Sir Wick" Hughes

    December 21, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    Well said

  6. Carla Whitlock

    December 21, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Tuskegee beat both teams that competed for the SWAC championship in 2010. With talent being diluted by schools like Troy and GA State, there is more parity between DI and DII.

  7. 5 yr Wonder

    December 21, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    I don't know about the SWAC, but Winston Salem State (CIAA) has owned NC A&T and NCCU for that matter the last few times they have faced each other.

  8. Unknown

    December 21, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    I admit I don't know what NCCU's record is against WSSU but A&T hasn't played WSSU since 2010 and when we did WSSU had only beaten A&T 4 out of their last 14 meetings. That is far from “owning” somebody #factcheck

  9. Troyce G

    December 21, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    To me, it doesn't matter what time the game started. Realize, the Network(s) have the decision on when and what time they broadcast. The Conference doesn't have the authority. Now, Halftime, goes according to once again the Network. Plus, the advertisers pay for time slots (believe what they pay is in the thousands or more depending what game is carried). HBCU or any schools that are Not larger than the Big Division 1 schools, they will never get the same privilege as them. As many see, the National NBC Network moved the Bayou Classic game to their cable/satellite channel. So, in other words, just be glad they are broadcasting the game. I remember back in the day they barely broadcast a HBCU game.

  10. Terry Rankin

    December 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    The MEAC schools have traditionally not supported one another so that is no surprise to those who attend or graduated from a MEAC school. Besides, I'm sure the good folks who live in Lorman, MS Alcorns home town, are always looking for a reason to get out to the big city anyway. Like it or not, the MEAC schools are considered the top tier HBCUs!

  11. Dennis W. Ellis

    December 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    The MEAC was strong-armed to give up its automatic spot in the FCS NCAA National Championship Playoffs for the “so called” Celebration Bowl which supposedly decides the “so called” HBCU National Champion between the SWAC and MEAC. What else would you call it? Personally, I wish the MEAC could negotiate a much better deal in order to afford two MEAC Football Programs to participate in the Playoffs and the Celebration Bowl, in order to reward two teams, who had great winning seasons, to be able to participate in post season play. NCCU or BC-U would have done just as well representing the MEAC in the Celebration Bowl, with NCA&T Participating in the NCAA Playoffs. The T.V. Ratings and attendance would have been about the same with any of those three MEAC Co-Champs in Atlanta. This is Just my personal opinion.

  12. 5 yr Wonder

    December 21, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    Owned was a bit too strong a word…but you stated the one fact, the last time they met (2010 for NCCU also), WSSU defeated them. That is said to discredit the guy saying there is zero chance of that happening.

  13. Daniel Alexander

    December 21, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    WSSU were beating on their homecoming by shaw u.

    A&T beat Shaw u 61-7

  14. David Ambrose

    December 21, 2015 at 11:44 pm

    Thank you!!! Get to the game on time

  15. Marcus Holbert

    December 22, 2015 at 12:51 am

    I am an Alcornite which now lives in Greensboro. If the man in the red suit wasn't coming Friday and Alcorn fans had been on the road two weeks prior with going to Jackson State and Houston. We would have doubled the A&T crowd. I was amazingly shocked to see poor support from A&T. Then I further investigated that at the Central and A&T game there were only 18k in attendance. If Alcorn and Jackson State was playing for potential championship game it would have been 50k plus at the game. As a former HBCU football player this is a much better opportunity for both teams. Not to mention that if A &T fans show up, the game would have had the largest attendance of all bowl games on Saturday.

  16. kevie Tillman

    December 22, 2015 at 3:39 am

    Swac supports Swac been like that for years. This Celebration Bowl is just the beginning,it will help both schools financially and also helps in recruiting. There were far more pluses than minuses. We can build from this. Far as Tennessee State, come to the Swac or Meac,I can't vouch for ya if you chose a long time ago to choose the Ohio Valley Conference. Lets build not tear down.

  17. Jevon Fulton

    December 22, 2015 at 3:50 am

    The last meeting between NCCU and WSSU was in 2009 when WSSU was apart of the MEAC. NCCU won that meeting. As a matter of fact NCCU has won four out of the last five with WSSU only win coming in 2007. 2009 was when WSSU decided to not compete as a FCS team and went back to the CIAA. So for the person that said WSSU has owned NCCU and NC A&T go check the books it's not true

  18. Jevon Fulton

    December 22, 2015 at 3:55 am

    Not to mention NCCU beat St. Aug 72-0 this year another CIAA school. Talent level is a little different at the FCS level. So putting CIAA champ vs SWAC or MEAC champ wouldn't be much of a game

  19. Jevon Fulton

    December 22, 2015 at 4:06 am

    I forgot they played in 2010. But you can't really discredit what that guy said because one, you have to remember WSSU was still playing with FCS scholarships and recruits at that time plus A&T or NCCU was not conference champs. NCCU was still in transition from DII. So what he said is correct the MEAC champ would beat the CIAA champ probably 99 out of 100 times.

  20. Stew72

    December 22, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Tuskegee University has clearly shown in previous years that they beaten SWAC schools (Alabama State and Texas Southern ). Albany State and Fort Valley state if given the opportunity will surprised many teams in both conferences.

  21. Jss Pss

    December 23, 2015 at 2:30 am

    NC A&T should be embarrassed by the support. FAMU and SCSU I think are the only schools that can match the SWAC support. In the SWAC we take our sports seriously. But I enjoyed the game and I hope my school goes next year


    December 24, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Decent article. One thing I take issue with is the point about the game NOT being an HBCU National Championship game. It clearly is. To say that it isn't then would shed light on the fact the the Div 1 FBS title game. The FBS game for National Champions shouldn't be declared so since ALL FBS schools clearly don't have a shot at being in the game. It's about wins, strength of schedule, etc. So your point about it not being a Nat'l Chpmshp game for HBCU's doesn't hold water. All HBCU's aren't created equal. If WSSU, Morehouse, FT Valley, etc. want to compete for the title, then move up to FCS/Div 1-AA.

  23. jacker12

    December 24, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    The difference is $500000.00 versus a away game in FCS playoff glad my Wildcats of BCU stayed home and saved money

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Hottest HBCU Sports Headlines

To Top