SWAC Championship Game
|SWAC Championship Game|
|Conference Football Championship|
|Conference||Southwestern Athletic Conference|
|Current stadium||NRG Stadium|
|Current location||Houston, Texas|
|Last contest||2016 SWAC Championship Game|
|Current champion||Grambling State Tigers|
|Most championships||Grambling State Tigers (7)|
|Official website||SWAC Football Championship Game|
Farmers Insurance (2009–2012)
|Legion Field (1999–2012)|
|Birmingham, Alabama (1999–2012)|
The SWAC Championship Game is an American college football game held on the first Saturday in December by the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) each year to determine its football champion. The game pits the champion of the Eastern Division against the champion of the Western Division in a game that follows the conclusion of the regular season. The game was held annually at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama from 1999 through 2012, but moved to NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas in 2013. On June 13, 2017 the SWAC announced that it will forgo its football championship game following the 2017 Toyota SWAC Football Championship, and send its regular season champion to the Celebration Bowl
Following the 1998 season, the SWAC announced that the league would be split into two divisions with the divisional winners meeting in a championship game. At the time of the announcement, a site for the game had not been selected but the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, the Astrodome in Houston, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile and Legion Field in Birmingham were each mentioned as potential locations for the event. Additionally, expansion of the league to twelve teams was also under consideration with Tennessee State, Florida A&M, Tuskegee and Morris Brown mentioned as possible additions. In February 1999, a championship game was officially approved by the SWAC Council of Presidents. Officials also stated the winner of the championship game would advance to play in the Heritage Bowl against an opponent from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
The following May, SWAC officials announced the league offices would move from New Orleans to Birmingham and that the championship game would be played at Legion Field. Birmingham was selected over New Orleans, Houston, Baton Rouge and Memphis as the city guaranteed both free office space to house the league headquarters and free access to Legion Field to host the game. The inaugural game was played on December 11, with Southern defeating Jackson State 31–30 before 47,621 fans at Legion Field. The following week, Southern lost to Hampton in the Heritage Bowl; however, the meeting would be the only one for the SWAC champion following the championship game. In January 2000 the NCAA ruled schools cannot compete in two postseason games, effectively ending participation in the Heritage Bowl by the SWAC champion. With the SWAC left unable to compete, the Heritage Bowl folded in February 2000.
In July 2010, commissioner Duer Sharp announced the SWAC was interested in participating in the Legacy Bowl against the MEAC to determine the annual black college football national championship. Although a decision regarding the contest has been postponed to 2011, SWAC participation in the event would potentially end the annual championship game in Birmingham. In May 2013, SWAC officials announced the game was to move from Legion Field to Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas starting with the 2013 edition of the championship.
When the game was initially proposed, the teams playing in the championship game was to include those with the best record against seven conference opponents from each division. However in August 1999 league officials changed the rule. For the inaugural contest, participation in the championship game was based on the record against the four divisional opponents only, not all conference teams. This format was dropped by the SWAC following the 1999 championship game in favor of the original proposal based on all league games, not only the divisional opponents.
|Year||Eastern Division||Western Division||Attendance||MVP||Reference(s)|
|1999||Jackson State||30||Southern||31||47,621||WR Michael Hayes, Southern|||
|2000||Alabama A&M||6||Grambling State||13||34,687||DB Calvin Spears, Grambling State|||
|2001||Alabama State||31||Grambling State||38||38,487||RB Kendrick Shanklin, Grambling State|||
|2002||Alabama A&M||19||Grambling State||31||23,727||QB Bruce Eugene, Grambling State|||
|2003||Alabama State||9||Southern||20||31,617||QB Quincy Richard, Southern|||
|2004||Alabama State||40||Southern||35||22,327||QB Tarvaris Jackson, Alabama State|||
|2005||Alabama A&M||6||Grambling State||45||20,612||QB Bruce Eugene, Grambling State|||
|2006||Alabama A&M||22||Arkansas–Pine Bluff||13||30,213||LB Johnny Baldwin, Alabama A&M|||
|2007||Jackson State||42||Grambling State||31||43,206||QB Jimmy Oliver, Jackson State|||
|2008||Jackson State||9||Grambling State||41||25,873||QB Greg Dillion, Grambling State|||
|2009||Alabama A&M||24||Prairie View A&M||30||20,218||QB K. J. Black, Prairie View A&M|||
|2010||Alabama State||6||Texas Southern†||11||22,350||LB Dejuan Fulghum, Texas Southern|||
|2011||Alabama A&M||15||Grambling State||16||23,476||LB Cliff Exama, Grambling State|||
|2012||Jackson State||21||Arkansas–Pine Bluff||24||32,480||WR Willie Young, Arkansas–Pine Bluff|||
|2013||Jackson State||27||Southern||34||38,985||QB Dray Joseph & DB Anthony Balancier, Southern|||
|2014||Alcorn State||38||Southern||24||38,969||QB John Gibbs, Jr., Alcorn State|||
|2015||Alcorn State||49||Grambling State||21||40,352||RB Darryan Ragsdale & DB Warren Gatewood, Alcorn State|||
|2016||Alcorn State||20||Grambling State||27||24,917||RB Martez Carter, Grambling State & LB De'Arius Christmas, Grambling State|||
|Totals||5 Wins||404||13 Wins||465|
Results by team
|1||Prairie View A&M||1||0||1.000|
|0||Mississippi Valley State||0||0||N/A|
Previous SWAC champions
Prior to splitting into divisions and using a postseason championship game to decide its overall champion, the SWAC determined its champions by winning-percentage against conference opponents in regular season play.
In 1933 Langston appeared to win the title outright with a 4-0 conference record after the regular season, while Wiley finished 4-1, and Prairie View A&M finished 3-1. Langston was invited to the Prairie View Bowl, which was won by Prairie View. The Panthers subsequently declared themselves SWAC champions even though their claim was based on a postseason game. The SWAC seems to acknowledge both schools' claims to the title in the conference's football media guide, although some other sources including Michael Hurd's Black College Football, 1892–1992: One Hundred Years of History, Education, and Pride (1993) also list Wiley as an additional co-champion, apparently since all three schools had 4-1 records against conference opponents if the postseason game is incorporated into the regular season conference standings.
Prairie View vacated its 1941 championship. No championship was awarded in 1943 due to World War II. Grambling State vacated its 1975 championship due to a violation of SWAC rules for scheduling opponents.
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