SWAC Championship Game

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SWAC Championship Game
Conference Football Championship
Sport College football
Conference Southwestern Athletic Conference
Current stadium NRG Stadium
Current location Houston, Texas
Played 1999–present
Last contest 2016 SWAC Championship Game
Current champion Grambling State Tigers
Most championships Grambling State Tigers (7)
Official website SWAC Football Championship Game
HealthSouth (1999–2002)
Jeep (2003)
Dodge (2004)
Farmers Insurance (2009–2012)
Toyota (2013–2017)
Host stadiums
Legion Field (1999–2012)
Host locations
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[1]


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.[2][3] 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.[2][3] 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.[2][3] In February 1999, a championship game was officially approved by the SWAC Council of Presidents.[4] 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).[4]

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.[5][6] 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.[5] The inaugural game was played on December 11, with Southern defeating Jackson State 31–30 before 47,621 fans at Legion Field.[7] 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.[8] With the SWAC left unable to compete, the Heritage Bowl folded in February 2000.[9]

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.[10] 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.[10][11] 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.[12]

Team selection[edit]

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.[13] 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.[13][14] 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.[15]



Year Eastern Division Western Division Attendance MVP Reference(s)
1999 Jackson State 30 Southern 31 47,621 WR Michael Hayes, Southern [7]
2000 Alabama A&M 6 Grambling State 13 34,687 DB Calvin Spears, Grambling State [16]
2001 Alabama State 31 Grambling State 38 38,487 RB Kendrick Shanklin, Grambling State [17][18]
2002 Alabama A&M 19 Grambling State 31 23,727 QB Bruce Eugene, Grambling State [19]
2003 Alabama State 9 Southern 20 31,617 QB Quincy Richard, Southern [20][21]
2004 Alabama State 40 Southern 35 22,327 QB Tarvaris Jackson, Alabama State [22][23]
2005 Alabama A&M 6 Grambling State 45 20,612 QB Bruce Eugene, Grambling State [24][25]
2006 Alabama A&M 22 Arkansas–Pine Bluff 13 30,213 LB Johnny Baldwin, Alabama A&M [26][27]
2007 Jackson State 42 Grambling State 31 43,206 QB Jimmy Oliver, Jackson State [28]
2008 Jackson State 9 Grambling State 41 25,873 QB Greg Dillion, Grambling State [29]
2009 Alabama A&M 24 Prairie View A&M 30 20,218 QB K. J. Black, Prairie View A&M [30]
2010 Alabama State 6 Texas Southern 11 22,350 LB Dejuan Fulghum, Texas Southern [31][32]
2011 Alabama A&M 15 Grambling State 16 23,476 LB Cliff Exama, Grambling State [33]
2012 Jackson State 21 Arkansas–Pine Bluff 24 32,480 WR Willie Young, Arkansas–Pine Bluff [34]
2013 Jackson State 27 Southern 34 38,985 QB Dray Joseph & DB Anthony Balancier, Southern [35]
2014 Alcorn State 38 Southern 24 38,969 QB John Gibbs, Jr., Alcorn State [36]
2015 Alcorn State 49 Grambling State 21 40,352 RB Darryan Ragsdale & DB Warren Gatewood, Alcorn State [37]
2016 Alcorn State 20 Grambling State 27 24,917 RB Martez Carter, Grambling State & LB De'Arius Christmas, Grambling State [38]
Totals 5 Wins 404 13 Wins 465

† Texas Southern vacated its 2010 Championship victory, along with all its 2006 to 2010 wins, to avoid the NCAA imposing an athletics Death Penalty.[39]

Results by team[edit]

Appearances School Wins Losses Pct
9 Grambling State 7 2 .778
6 Alabama A&M 1 5 .167
5 Southern 3 2 .600
5 Jackson State 1 4 .200
4 Alabama State 1 3 .250
3 Alcorn State 2 1 .667
2 Arkansas–Pine Bluff 1 1 .500
1 Prairie View A&M 1 0 1.000
1 Texas Southern 0† 0 N/A†
0 Mississippi Valley State 0 0 N/A

† Texas Southern vacated its 2010 Championship victory.[39]

Previous SWAC champions[edit]

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,[40] although some other sources[41] 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[41] its 1941 championship.[42] No championship was awarded in 1943 due to World War II.[41] Grambling State vacated its 1975 championship[43] due to a violation of SWAC rules for scheduling opponents.[44]

Year Champion(s)
1921 Wiley
1922 Paul Quinn
1923 Wiley
1924 Paul Quinn
1925 Bishop
1926 Samuel Huston
1927 Wiley
1928 Wiley
1929 Wiley
1930 Wiley
1931 Prairie View A&M
1932 Wiley
1933 Langston
Prairie View A&M
1934 Texas College
1935 Texas College
1936 Langston
Texas College
1937 Langston
1938 Langston
1939 Langston
1940 Langston
1941 Prairie View A&M (vacated)
1942 Texas College
1943 (no championship awarded due to World War II)
1944 Langston
Texas College
1945 Wiley
1946 Southern
1947 Southern
1948 Southern
1949 Langston
1950 Southern
1951 Prairie View A&M
1952 Prairie View A&M
1953 Prairie View A&M
1954 Prairie View A&M
1955 Southern
1956 Texas Southern
1957 Wiley
1958 Prairie View A&M
1959 Southern
1960 Grambling State
Prairie View A&M
1961 Jackson State
1962 Jackson State
1963 Prairie View A&M
1964 Prairie View A&M
1965 Grambling State
1966 Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Grambling State
Texas Southern
1967 Grambling State
1968 Alcorn State
Grambling State
Texas Southern
1969 Alcorn State
1970 Alcorn State
1971 Grambling State
1972 Grambling State
Jackson State
1973 Grambling State
Jackson State
1974 Alcorn State
Grambling State
1975 Grambling State (vacated)
Jackson State
1976 Alcorn State
1977 Grambling State
1978 Grambling State
1979 Alcorn State
Grambling State
1980 Grambling State
Jackson State
1981 Jackson State
1982 Jackson State
1983 Grambling State
1984 Alcorn State
1985 Grambling State
Jackson State
1986 Jackson State
1987 Jackson State
1988 Jackson State
1989 Grambling State
1990 Jackson State
1991 Alabama State
1992 Alcorn State
1993 Southern
1994 Alcorn State
Grambling State
1995 Jackson State
1996 Jackson State
1997 Southern
1998 Southern


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