SWAC Commissioner Charles McClelland explained in January that he encouraged ESPN to feature more conference matchups across the network platforms ahead of its spring football season.
On Wednesday, the SWAC released the 2021 ESPN slate that includes 16 games spanning ESPN3, ESPNU, and its digital platforms.
“We’re extremely excited to release our upcoming slate of games set to be carried by ESPN for our Spring 2021 football season,” said McClelland. “This lineup is highlighted by multiple intriguing matchups that will feature all of our member institutions competing in the sport of football during this highly unique spring season.”
ESPN’s coverage will begin on Feb. 21 when Jackson State hosts Edward Waters in Deion Sanders’ coaching debut.
It will be one of six regular-season games to feature Jackson State — the most appearances of any school on the network in 2021.
The ESPN schedule is also highlighted by two classics as the Labor Day Classic featuring Texas Southern at Prairie View A&M and Magic City Classic featuring Alabama A&M versus Alabama State (ESPNU) will take center stage on Saturday, March 6, and Saturday, April 17 respectively. The Magic City Classic will serve as the finale for league regular season linear coverage as that game is slated to be carried on ESPNU.
The SWAC Championship game will be televised May 1 on ESPNU.
Not a single game, however, will be shown on ESPN or ESPN 2 — the most-watched channels on the network — despite no apparent conflicts with FBS leagues or the NFL.
During SWAC Media Day McClelland affirmed that he felt the league was in a strong position — with its current brand and future additions to the league with Florida A&M and Bethune Cookman coming aboard in the summer — that more games should be mainstays on ESPN.
“We understand our value and we understand our worth,” he said. “We’re going to start to demand that our value and our worth be respected and entities understand that.”
2021 SWAC ESPN spring television schedule
Feb. 21 1:00 p.m. Edward Waters at Jackson State ESPN3
Feb. 26 6:00 p.m. Southern at Alabama State ESPN3
Feb. 27 2:00 p.m. Mississippi Valley State at Jackson State *ESPN3
Mar. 6 12:00 p.m. Jackson State at Grambling State *ESPN3
Mar. 6 TBA Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Southern ESPN3
Mar. 6 7:00 p.m. Texas Southern at Prairie View A&M ESPN3
Mar. 20 TBA Jackson State at Alabama State *ESPN3
Mar. 20 12:00 p.m. Alabama A&M at Prairie View A&M ESPN3
Mar. 27 TBA Grambling State at Alabama A&M ESPN3
Mar. 27 TBA Alabama State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff ESPN3
Mar. 28 3:00 pm Prairie View A&M at Jackson State ESPNU
Apr. 3 3:00 pm Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Mississippi Valley State ESPN3
Apr. 10 3:00 pm Alabama A&M at Jackson State ESPNU
Apr. 10 7:00 pm Southern at Prairie View A&M ESPN3
Apr. 17 6:30 pm Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State ESPNU
May 1 3:00 pm Cricket Wireless SWAC Championship ESPNU