MEAC-SWAC Challenge opponents set

By SWAC Media Relations
Updated: April 15, 2008

BIRMINGHAM — ESPN has announced that the Walt Disney World Resort will serve as a presenting sponsor of the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.

Owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television (ERT), the Challenge features teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).

This year, the event moves to Orlando and will showcase a match-up between the MEAC’s Hampton University and the SWAC’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.

“We 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,” said Eugene Campbell, Vice President of Community Relations and Minority Business Development for Walt Disney World Resort.

“We 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.”

Concidentally, Walt Disney World ended its 10-year run as presenting sponsor of the Florida Classic this year. The annual matchup between Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman had grown to become the largest HBCU football event in the country.

“We decided to bring our sponsorship to a close, but we still remain fans of the Florida Classic and want to see it stay in Orlando,” Disney spokesperson Andrea Singer said when the announcement was made in February. “We’re proud of that commitment and the important role we’ve had in bringing it to Orlando.”

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.

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 SWAC’s current championship game format.

It was JSU head coach Rick Comegy’s first SWAC title.

“I am happy that our team has the opportunity to participate in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge,” said JSU head coach Rick Comegy. “It 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.

“To 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 MEAC,” said Holmes.

“It 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.”

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 MEAC’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 MEAC’s Hampton University defeating the SWAC’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.