For MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas, the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl is what dreams are made of.
Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T should have been playing in the Georgia Dome a decade ago if it were up to Thomas.
The longtime MEAC head saw the opportunity a bowl game involving a SWAC school could provide.
Exposure, increased profile of the conferences and the participating schools, and an influx of dollars that the FCS playoffs – a tournament the MEAC only had been 8-31 in – failed to deliver.
Thomas had to convince presidents and chancellors to see his vision.
“Now you get more people seeing your brand and knowing your brand,” Thomas told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “So now it’s about recruiting students. Not just student-athletes, it’s about recruiting students. Now, the more people know of your institutions, the more they will investigate about attending.”
So what’s the word on the Celebration Bowl from around the web?
This is a perfect platform for two HBCUs to put on a show and could lead to more games between SWAC and MEAC schools.
An improving offense against an Aggies team on the downswing will lead to obvious results. Look for Alcorn State to jump out to a lead and ride Ragsdale to a historic win.
Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T had two of the top three defenses nationally among 123 FCS teams this season. Both programs have seen rough times but have been on the rise in the last four years — they each won 32 games in the last four years after the two schools combined for only 25 wins from 2008 to 2011. Tip of the cap to Alcorn State’s Jay Hopson and A&T’s Rod Broadway for building that success. An Alcorn State win would give the Braves back-to-back 10-win seasons; a North Carolina A&T win would give the Aggies their first 10-win season since 2003.
In addition to the national attention for the HBCUs and their respective conferences, the bowl game will expose students to a new level of academics and athletics.