Fans of the Atlanta Football Classic, an annual weekend that also featured marching bands, a college fair and a robotics event, will have to wait until December for a new version of the event that has been hosted for nearly 30 years by the 100 Black Men of Atlanta.
An all new Celebration Bowl will pit the champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) against the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) winner. The MEAC and SWAC conferences contain some of the largest historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The game will take place at noon on Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Georgia Dome. It will be televised nationally.
“We are excited about our multi-year relationship with ESPN,” said 100 Black Men of Atlanta Chairman Bill Lamar in a press release. “We see a new horizon in the world of HBCUs football and look forward to beginning a new tradition with ESPN.
Atlanta businessman John Grant has been appointed executive director of the Celebration Bowl. Grant has been chief executive officer of 100 Black Men for 14 years. He was recently selected for induction in the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau’s 2015 Hospitality Hall of Fame.
The move to the Celebration Bowl was made in part to boost the game’s popularity with fans, said Stephen Alford, spokesman for 100 Black Men. Attendance had declined over the years to a low of 25,000.
The game was a big draw for longtime rivals Florida A&M and Tennessee State universities whose fans came out in large numbers annually, said Add Seymour Jr., the editor of ADD’S HBCU Sports Report, an online publication.
“But that’s a double-edged sword as today’s fan is younger and loses interest in the same old things quickly,” he said. “So as time went by, fewer and fewer people saw the game as something they had to do. There was always next year.”
As it did with the Atlanta Football Classic, the 100 will host a youth symposium, robotics showcase, college fair and job fair along with the game. A portion of the Celebration Bowl’s proceeds will go to mentoring and other youth programming offered by 100 Black Men.
“I think this new bowl can be successful, mainly with the ESPN tie and marketing muscle during a fairly dead time in college football,” Seymour said.
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