|Cricket Celebration Bowl|
|Previous stadiums||Georgia Dome (2015–16)|
|Conference tie-ins||MEAC, SWAC|
|Payout||US$2 million |
($1M Per conference)
|Preceded by||Heritage Bowl (1991–99)|
Pelican Bowl (1972, 1974–75)
|North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State|
(North Carolina A&T, 64–44)
|Cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns|
The Celebration Bowl is a postseason college football bowl game, first played in the 2015 season, contested between the champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — the two prominent conferences of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in NCAA Division I. It serves as the de facto national championship of black college football.[a] The game is held annually on the third weekend of December. Starting with the December 2017 game, it is played at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium; the first two games were played at the Georgia Dome. It is currently the only active bowl game to feature teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
The Celebration Bowl is a successor to two previous bowl games between the MEAC and SWAC, the Pelican Bowl and Heritage Bowl. Because the Celebration Bowl takes place during the FCS playoff tournament, neither the SWAC nor the MEAC can send their champion to the tournament. At the time the Celebration Bowl was inaugurated, the SWAC's regular season already extended too late into the year for its champion to enter the FCS playoffs, while the MEAC dropped its automatic bid to the FCS playoffs in order to send its champion to the Celebration Bowl.
The game is organized by ESPN Events, which also runs the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, the annual interconference game between the two conferences, held over Labor Day weekend in Orlando, Florida. The Celebration Bowl was sponsored by the Air Force Reserve for three playings: 2015, 2016, and 2018. On December 9, 2020 Cricket Wireless signed on as title sponsor of the game which would be called the Cricket Celebration Bowl.
In June 2017, the SWAC announced that it would discontinue the SWAC Championship Game following the 2017 playing, resulting in the SWAC regular season champion automatically qualifying for the Celebration Bowl. However, in June 2018, the SWAC reversed course and continues to hold its championship game, with the winner advancing to the Celebration Bowl.
Due to the MEAC cancelling all fall athletics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the SWAC following suit postponing its football season to spring 2021, it was announced that the 2020 Celebration Bowl had been cancelled.
|Date||MEAC Team||SWAC Team||Attendance||Series||Notes|
|December 19, 2015||North Carolina A&T Aggies||41||Alcorn State Braves||34||35,528||MEAC, 1–0||notes|
|December 17, 2016||North Carolina Central Eagles||9||Grambling State Tigers||10||31,096||tied, 1–1||notes|
|December 16, 2017||North Carolina A&T Aggies||21||Grambling State Tigers||14||25,873||MEAC, 2–1||notes|
|December 15, 2018||North Carolina A&T Aggies||24||Alcorn State Braves||22||31,672||MEAC, 3–1||notes|
|December 21, 2019||North Carolina A&T Aggies||64||Alcorn State Braves||44||32,968||MEAC, 4–1||notes|
|2020||Cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic|||
Two MVPs are selected for each game; one an offensive player, the other a defensive player.
|2015||Tarik Cohen||RB||North Carolina A&T|
|2016||Martez Carter||RB||Grambling State|
|2017||Marquell Cartwright||RB||North Carolina A&T|
|Franklin "Mac" McCain III||CB|
|2018||Lamar Raynard||QB||North Carolina A&T|
|2019||Kylil Carter||QB||North Carolina A&T|
Through December 2019, there have been 5 games (10 total appearances).
|1||4||North Carolina A&T||4||0||1.000||2015, 2017, 2018, 2019|
|2||3||Alcorn State||0||3||.000||2015, 2018, 2019|
|3||2||Grambling State||1||1||.500||2016, 2017|
|4||1||North Carolina Central||0||1||.000||2016|
|Date||Network||Play-by-play||Color commentary||Sideline reporter|
|2015||ABC||Mark Neely||Jay Walker||Tiffany Greene|
|2016||ABC||Mark Neely||Jay Walker||Tiffany Greene|
|2017||ABC||Mark Neely||Jay Walker||Tiffany Greene|
|2018||ABC||Mark Jones||Dusty Dvoracek & Jay Walker||Molly McGrath & Roddy Jones|
|2019||ABC||Mark Jones||Dusty Dvoracek & Jay Walker||Tiffany Greene & Roddy Jones|
|Date||Network||Play-by-play||Color commentary||Sideline reporter|
|2015||RedVoice, LLC||Sam Crenshaw||Hugh Douglas|
|2016||RedVoice, LLC||Sam Crenshaw||Hugh Douglas||Lericia Harris|
|2017||Gameday Radio||Sam Crenshaw||Randy McMichael||Lericia Harris|
|2018||Gameday Radio||Andy Demetra||Randy McMichael||Lericia Harris|
|2019||Bowlday Radio||Travis Jones||Randy McMichael||Tenrita Batiste|
- Not all HBCUs in FCS are members of MEAC and SWAC—see discussion at Black college football national championship#Celebration Bowl.
- Mark W. Wright (July 19, 2017). "SWAC bets big on the Celebration Bowl: League drops its own championship to focus on the money and TV exposure of the HBCU title contest". theundefeated.com. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- Anna Negron (October 9, 2018). "Air Force Reserve Renews Its Title Sponsorship of the Celebration Bowl". espnmediazone.com. Retrieved December 3, 2018.
- Hunt, Donald (March 31, 2015). "HBCU greats laud the Celebration Bowl". ESPN. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
- Chiusano, Anthony (December 21, 2019). "Celebration Bowl: History, all-time results and how to watch in 2019". NCAA.com. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
- Patterson, Chip. "MEAC, SWAC to play in Atlanta-based Celebration Bowl after 2015 season". www.cbssports.com. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on March 10, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2015 – via Wayback Machine.
- Reese, Earnest (December 21, 1996). "Heritage Bowl struggling for acceptance". The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. p. 9H.
- Hudson, Phill W. (18 March 2015). "Atlanta to Host New Celebration Bowl". Atlanta Business Chronicle. American City Business Journals. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
- "Champions of MEAC, SWAC to meet in new Celebration Bowl". www.usatoday.com. Associated Press. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
- "CRICKET WIRELESS NAMED NEW TITLE SPONSOR OF MEAC/SWAC CHALLENGE KICKOFF AND CELEBRATION BOWL". Retrieved December 9, 2020.
- "SWAC To Forgo Football Title Game After 2017". SWAC.org. NeuLion. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
- "SWAC football, basketball championships returning to Birmingham". AL.com. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
- "2018 Toyota SWAC Football Championship Game Relocated". FOX10 News. Meredith Corporation. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
- "MEAC-SWAC 2020 football matchups in Atlanta canceled". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2020-07-18.
- David Purdum (December 19, 2015). "5 observations from the Celebration Bowl". ajc.com. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
- "Event Results: NCCU 9 at Grambling 10". statbroadcast.com. December 17, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
- "North Carolina A&T wins 2nd Celebration Bowl in 3 years". espn.com. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
- "Wilson's return pushes NCA&T past Alcorn in Celebration Bowl". ESPN. AP. December 15, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
- Solomon, Adam (July 16, 2020). "SWAC vs MEAC Celebration Bowl is Cancelled". alabamanews.net. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
- "MVP Awards". thecelebrationbowl.com. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
- @AWainwrightTV (December 21, 2019). "Highlights:" (Tweet). Retrieved December 21, 2019 – via Twitter.
- "College Football Playoff Highlights 2015–16 Bowl Schedule". ESPN Media Zone. Retrieved December 8, 2015.
- "College Football Playoff Featuring Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington Highlights ESPN's 38-Game Bowl Schedule". ESPN Media Zone. Retrieved December 6, 2016.