ESPN Signs New Deal With MEAC, SWAC to Continue Cricket Challenge Kickoff and Cricket Celebration Bowl

ESPN Events has signed a new, six-year agreement with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) that extends both the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and the Cricket Celebration Bowl, solidifying its continued support of the tradition, legacy and values of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“We are thrilled to continue our relationship with these two incredible conferences,” says Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events. “The Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Cricket Celebration Bowl have been mainstays on our Events roster, and we’ve seen tremendous growth for these storied games. We look forward to their continued success, and celebrating HBCU football for years to come.”

The Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff began in 2005 and is now annually scheduled during ESPN’s Week 0 college football programming. This year’s matchup on Saturday, Aug. 28, at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta will feature North Carolina Central vs. Alcorn State in primetime on ESPN. Future matchups include Alabama State vs. Howard (2022), South Carolina State vs. Jackson State (2023), and Florida A&M vs. Norfolk State (2024).

“This new deal reaffirms ESPN’s commitment to supporting HBCU college football in a real and meaningful way,” says John T. Grant, executive director of the Kickoff and Celebration Bowl. “Positioning the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff to week 0 brings national focus to Atlanta for the opening weekend of the college football season, as well as the start of Bowl Season with the Cricket Celebration Bowl. We’re looking forward to starting and ending the season with high energy and excitement around these two games.”

The Cricket Celebration Bowl, in its seventh year, will be played Saturday, Dec. 18, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The postseason bowl game will feature conference champions from the MEAC and SWAC.

“We are elated to extend our agreement with the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and the Cricket Celebration Bowl,” says Dr. Dennis Thomas, MEAC Commissioner. “These are events which showcase the rich tradition of football and the pageantry that surrounds the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Also, these nationally televised games are tremendous opportunities for recruiting talented students to our institutions. ESPN Events renewing its investment shows ESPN’s commitment to the MEAC and the SWAC on a national scale and platform. The national publicity enhances our brand and exposure and showcases our institutions, student-athletes and coaches to the world.”

“The Southwestern Athletic Conference is extremely excited to extend our agreement with ESPN Events for the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and the Cricket Celebration Bowl,” says Dr. Charles McClelland, SWAC Commissioner. “This relationship provides an extremely unique opportunity for us to showcase our membership and the outstanding student-athletes and programs from within our conference. ESPN Events has been a valued teammate over the course of this sponsorship agreement and we look forward to continuing to bring our exciting brand of football into the homes of millions in the coming months and years.”

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