Will Alcorn State – North Carolina A&T Revive Interest in the Celebration Bowl?

Alcorn State University and North Carolina A&T State University will play in the fourth edition of the unofficial HBCU college football national championship next Saturday. But will the second showdown between the Brave and the Aggies jumpstart attendance and national interest in the unofficial kickoff for the college football bowl game schedule?

HBCU Gameday breaks down the statistics on last year’s in-stadium attendance numbers.

The inaugural Celebration Bowl, as well as CBII, was played in the Georgia Dome. Approximately 35,000 fans filled the dome, which remains as the best-attended Celebration Bowl. The dome is no more these days as it was destroyed following the completion of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

A&T and Grambling played CBIII in the new stadium in 2017 in front of the smallest crowd in Celebration Bowl history. The challenge will be on the two schools to bring attendance back up as well as draw a larger TV audience than last year’s game.

In a matchup which won’t have as much player star power as the inaugural meeting between the two teams, it is the coached who may be the biggest of the game’s compelling storylines.

Alcorn State head football coach Fred McNair leads a Braves team popularized nearly 25 years ago by his brother Steve which led to a solid career in the NFL, and NCA&T coach Sam Washington, who became an Internet sensation following an upset win over East Carolina University earlier this year.

The Aggies bring seven members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s all-conference first-team to the Celebration Bowl, and the Braves bring 10 players to the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s first-team, including Offensive Player of the Year Noah Johnson and Newcomer of the Year De’Shawn Waller.

High-powered offenses and players and coaches with name appeal for MEAC and SWAC football fans seemingly provide the fuel for a game that should have widespread interest, particularly against successful turnout for both teams’ last games. More than 20,000 fans came for the Alcorn-hosted SWAC Championship Game, and better than 11,000 for the Aggies’regular-seasonn finale against North Carolina Central University.

13 comments
  1. I think it may need to be noted that of that 20,000 that turned out for the Alcorn/SU game, Southern University students and alumni were the huge majority in that number. It is my opinion that in order for the Celebration Bowl to be successful and have a huge turnout the conferences have to reach further than just the winning teams. A&T won the conference but the MEAC schools should show up period. Alcorn won SWAC conference title however the SWAC schools need to show up. The Celebration Bowl is about the conferences and ALL the schools they make up. Unfortunately, I believe turnout may be higher but still low. Atleast 3-5 months prior to the Celebration Bowl both conferences should pull out all the stops and advertise hard in their respective conferences about Bowl attendance. Or else the Celebration Bowl will be ignored.

    1. Excellent points here. Conferences don’t do a lot of marketing beyond their own products and championships, and considering that this is an ESPN-owned property, the interpretation is that black folks in and around Atlanta will come out for the game because it features two HBCU conference champs.

      But you are correct – more has to be done to engage alumni from all schools to view the game as an HBCU event. And that’s probably hard to do considering that we have several large regional classics which draw our attention and money just weeks prior to this game during homecoming season.

  2. I agree, the conferences and the universities involved must ramp up the marketing. The conferences should design a battle of the fans contest or something to engage all of the HBCU alumni to attend.

    I went to the game last year (my first Celebration Bowl) and the atmosphere at the host hotels and dome was awesome.

    It did puzzle me that you couldn’t find any Celebration Bowl swag! I was shocked. I took my dad, an A&T alum and football player. He really wanted a t-shirt or hat, anything. We found nothing in the host hotels, at the game and on the streets.

    If this were the peach bowl, you would have found gear & swag everywhere. I’m speaking from experience, my dad was an ACC & Big East football official for over 25 years and he worked over 15 bowl games including the peach bowl twice.

    We must begin to market our schools and events much better.

  3. 2 thoughts:

    1. I bet the Celebration Bowl, the city of ATL and the MEAC, quiet as kept were rooting for FAMU.

    2. Really wish a corporate sponsor would sponsor student travel to the game. This happens at the FBS semifinals and national championship games. I believe Tostitos sponsored both student sections travel last year to the FBS national championship game in the Georgia Dome.

    3. Extra free thought make it a double header and have the CIAA Vs. SIAC. Also throw a HBCU 4 team basketball invitational in the weekend as well.

    1. True. Its just as many people watch the Bayou Classic as well as the 70000 people that attended the Bayou Classic. Great point!

  4. I’m a HBCU grad; class of 94. I remember when the Celebration Bowl was all the hype! Maybe b/c I’m a journalism student I have a better writer’s memory. If the MEAC and SWAC sports folk, and alumni federation networks of each school got together it could greatly increase the attendance based on the outputs from that or those subsequent meetings. Conference heads can’t hang their hats on black Atlanta alone. There’s way too much going on and Atlantans don’t have to commit to the Black College Bowl. As a matter fact they didn’t. They have options.

    1. I think its now more imperative for conference’s to study how they can best market the game, as just a handful of teams are now appearing in the game. It’s not like other title games where the usual suspects travel hundreds of thousands of fans; I think the Celebration Bowl would be elated with 50,000 fans. But to do that, excitement has to be created around the game and not just the teams playing in it. Is it even possible to do that?

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