The fifth annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, an ESPN Regional Television (ERT) owned-and-operated event, will pit MEAC defending champion South Carolina State University against 2008 SWAC title winner Grambling State University on Sunday, Sept. 6. The yearly event, which features teams from two prominent HBCU (Historically Black College/University) leagues, will return to Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. The two teams will go head-to-head for the first time since 1994 and the match up will be aired on ESPN2 at a time to be announced on a later date.
"Having the best team from each conference represented in this year's MEAC/SWAC Challenge is the icing on the cake for the fifth anniversary of the event," said Nikki Godfrey, MEAC/SWAC Challenge Executive Director. "It will truly be a championship atmosphere for the schools, their fans and the Orlando community to enjoy."
South Carolina State and Grambling have met 14 times previously. The Grambling Tigers lead the series 10-4. However, the Bulldogs won the last meeting 31-27 in the 1994 Heritage Bowl. Both teams have also participated in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge before this year's scheduled appearance. South Carolina State played in the inaugural game in 2005 versus Alabama State and Grambling in 2006 against Hampton.
Eugene Campbell, Vice President of Community Relations & Minority Business Development, Walt Disney World Co., remarked: "We consider it an honor to join ESPN once again in saluting these outstanding student-athletes in a game that delivers a bowl experience while upholding the tradition and pageantry of Black College Football. We look forward to celebrating this momentous battle on the gridiron with South Carolina State and Grambling fans alike."
South Carolina State is coming off its most productive season in 14 years. The Bulldogs, under the tutelage of head coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough, compiled a 10-3 overall mark — the school's most wins since the 1994 campaign – and went undefeated at 8-0 to capture the Conference Championship and a berth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.
"It should be an exciting game matching two teams that had outstanding years and won their league and were ranked 1-2 among HBCUs in the polls," said Coach Pough. "This sets it up to be a great game. Certainly, we are excited to be back in the event and we are glad to be going to Florida."
Head Coach Rod Broadway's second season at Grambling State was a memorable one as the Tigers overcame a 1-2 start and reeled off nine straight wins en route to earning its 22nd SWAC Football Championship and 14th Black College National Championship in school history.
"We're looking forward to competing against South Carolina State in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge," said Grambling State head coach Rod Broadway. "The opportunity to open the year on national television, in a venue as storied as the Citrus Bowl, will be a memory our players and staff will cherish."
Each year, the game is played 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. The SWAC earned its first MEAC/SWAC Challenge trophy in 2007 as Southern defeated Florida A&M, 33-27. Last year, the event moved from Birmingham's Legion Field to Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, where the MEAC reclaimed the MEAC/SWAC Challenge crown, as Hampton defeated Jackson State 17-13. The MEAC leads the series 3-1. Teams for future games are determined on an annual basis.
"This year's MEAC-SWAC Challenge should be another great contest featuring two outstanding football programs," said MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas. "This game is even more intriguing for fans because both defending conference champions are involved."
"I would like to commend ESPN for continuing to take the lead in providing diverse programming."
SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp stated: "This year's game is arguably the most exciting in the five-year history of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. Both Grambling State and South Carolina State had championship seasons in 2008 and this year's match up is an outstanding kickoff for the 2009 campaign."