SWAC champion Alcorn State will meet MEAC co-champion North Carolina A&T next week in the first annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on Dec. 19 in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome. The Celebration Bowl, which airs live at 12 noon on ABC next Saturday, is being billed as the game that will kick off this year’s bowl season.
But it will be the final game of the 2015 black college football season. Alcorn State (10-3), winner of the SWAC East Division and the preseason BCSP No. 1 team, punched its ticket to the inaugural bowl game pitting the two HBCU conference champions with a 49-21 win over West Division champ Grambling State Saturday in Houston.
North Carolina A&T (9-2), which began the season at No. 3 in the BCSP ranking, earned its spot representing the MEAC via the conference’s tie-breaking procedure after sharing that league’s title with North Carolina Central and Bethune-Cookman. Both Alcorn State and A&T have spent time this season as the No. 1 team in black college football. This game will likely determine the final No. 1.
“It’s not about who wins. I say, let’s all win,” Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Executive Director John Grant said of the game in a profile this month in Uptown Magazine. Grant has been chief executive officer of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta for the past 14 years. That organization is one of the sponsors and organizers of the event.
“I’m all about creating opportunities for people to win,” he said. “When people win, our communities win. When communities win, our nation wins. That’s what this bowl game is about. If we’re able to do that, it will have meaning inclusive of the sport, but way beyond the sport. “That is a statement worth making, he said.” The Air Force Reserve was announced as the title sponsor of the bowl game last week.
“As we continue to build toward creating a pinnacle event when the inaugural Celebration Bowl kicks off on December 19, it is exciting to have the Air Force Reserve join us as our title sponsor,” Grant said. The event is owned by ESPN who is guaranteeing each conference a $1 million payday. The bulk of that money goes to the two participating schools.
The game will pit the high-scoring Alcorn State offense that averages 40 points per game and 309 rushing yards per game, third best in FCS football, against an A&T defense that is second in the FCS against the rush giving up just 84.5 yards per game and only 15.6 points per game, fifth in the FCS. Among the featured players are A&T junior running back and MEAC Offensive Player of the year Tarik Cohen , who rushed for an MEAC best 1,248 yards and 12 TDs and SWAC Championship Game MVP Darryan Ragsdale of Alcorn State who has rushed for 1,259 yards and ten scores.
Events prior to the game include an introductory press conference on Thursday at the College Hall of Fame, a Celebration Bowl Champions Dinner Friday at the same location, a College Fair Friday afternoon at the Georgia World Congress Center and a Fan Fest at the Georgia Dome beginning at 9:30 a .m. Saturday.