It was announced today that the Walt Disney World Resort will serve as a presenting sponsor of the MEAC-SWAC Challenge, an ESPN Regional Television (ERT) owned-and-operated event, featuring teams from two prominent HBCU (Historically Black College/University) leagues — Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). This year, the event moves to Orlando and will showcase a college football match-up between the MEACâ€™s Hampton University and the SWACâ€™s Jackson State University on Labor Day Weekend, Sunday, Aug. 31, live at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2, from the Florida Citrus Bowl. The first three years, the game was played at Legion Field in Birmingham , Ala.
â€œWe are excited to be a sponsor of this game that will bring a new event to the Florida Citrus Bowl and have a positive economic impact on Central Florida,â€ said Eugene Campbell, Vice President of Community Relations and Minority Business Development for Walt Disney World Resort. â€œWe have a long history of supporting the African-American community and we’re proud to build on this legacy by supporting the 25 historically black colleges and universities in the Mid-Eastern and Southwestern Athletic Conferences.â€
As part of the festivities, former Grambling State player, coach and NFL quarterback Doug Williams will serve as keynote speaker at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff Banquet on Friday, Aug. 29, at Walt Disney World Resort.
â€œItâ€™s great that the City of Orlando and Walt Disney World have stepped up to the plate to bring two historically black colleges and universities to play this game,â€ said Williams, now a personnel executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. â€œFor these programs to get an opportunity to showcase their institutions on a national platform like ESPN is wonderful.â€
Added Pete Derzis, Senior Vice President and General Manager, ERT: â€œWe are truly honored to have the support of the Walt Disney World Resort as a presenting sponsor and HBCU football legend Doug Williams, as we work toward the establishment and growth of this event in a great city such as Orlando . This yearâ€™s match-up will further illustrate the great talent, quality and culture of MEAC and SWAC football to a national audience on ESPN2.â€
Hampton and Jackson State have met twice before, with Hampton having won both games in 2004 and 2005.
Jackson State earned its 16th SWAC championship last season with a 42-31 win over the Grambling State . The title game, televised on ESPN Classic, was the second most attended game under the SWACâ€™s current championship game format. It was JSU head coach Rick Comegyâ€™s first SWAC title.
“I am happy that our team has the opportunity to participate in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge,â€ said JSU head coach Rick Comegy. â€œIt will mean great exposure for Jackson State and our football program, as well as the city of Jackson and the state of Mississippi . I think we will come out ready to play and have a good showing for the game.”
After three consecutive MEAC championships, Hampton , making its second appearance in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge, went 6-5 in 2007. The Pirates are under the reign of first-year head coach Jerry Holmes, who began his coaching career as the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Hampton from 1992 to 1994. During those three, Hampton posted a 31-4-1 record, winning three consecutive CIAA championships, making two trips to the NCAA playoffs and capturing the 1994 Black College National Championship.
â€œTo be given the opportunity to play in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge on national television is a great honor for our players, the coaches and the entire University because it is a chance for Hampton to represent the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference,â€ said head coach Jerry Holmes. â€œIt says a lot when you are picked out of all the other great teams to represent the conference. The team takes a lot of pride and we look forward to facing Jackson State this year in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.â€
Each year, the game pits a MEAC team against a SWAC member at a neutral site within the footprint of one of the conferences. The inaugural MEAC/SWAC Challenge in 2005 showcased the MEACâ€™s South Carolina State vs. Alabama State of the SWAC, with South Carolina State prevailing, 27-14. In 2006, the contest went into overtime with the MEACâ€™s Hampton University defeating the SWACâ€™s Grambling State , 27-26. Last year, the SWAC earned its first MEAC/SWAC Challenge trophy as Southern defeated Florida A&M, 33-27. Teams for future games are determined on an annual basis.
For more information about the MEAC-SWAC Challenge, please visit www.meacswacchallenge.com.