ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, has announced a three-year sponsorship agreement with Cricket Wireless, who will be the new title sponsor for the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Celebration Bowl. Both events, which are staged in Atlanta, celebrate the tradition, legacy and value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“We are delighted to have Cricket Wireless as the title sponsor of both our football kickoff and bowl games,” said John Grant, executive director for the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Celebration Bowl. “These events provide valuable diversity to the sports offering in the city of Atlanta. This relationship reflects our mutul passion for and appreciation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the vaulable contributions they make to our nation. We look forward to working together and building world-class events in a world-class city.”

ESPN Events’ relationship with Cricket began with the sponsorship of the 2018 Celebration Bowl. Cricket’s support of HBCUs began with an agreement with Southern University, which eventually expanded to include sponsorship of the Magic City Classic and Bayou Classic. In October 2020, Cricket and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) announced a sponsorship agreement extension through 2023.

“At Cricket, we’re all about creating a meaningful connection with our customers and within the communities where we operate,” said Tiffany Baehman, vice president and chief marketing officer, Cricket Wireless. “Our extended relationship with ESPN allows us to continue to introduce our brand to HBCU students, alumni and fans. It also means that we can help amplify the rich culture and legacy of HBCUs, and the positive impact they have on the Black community.

The Cricket Wireless MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff – an early-season matchup of HBCU football teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) – is played at the Georgia State’s Center Parc Credit Union Stadium. The Cricket Celebration Bowl is played each year, with the game typically opening the college bowl season, from Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Due to the current health pandemic, both events were cancelled for the 2020 season, but excepted to return in 2021. Fans can re-live and enjoy last year’s Celebration Bowl between Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T on Thursday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. Those interesed in joining a virtual watch party can sign up here.

Information regarding the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Cricket Celebration Bowl can be found at www.meacswacchallenge.com and www.TheCelebrationBowl.com.

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About Cricket Wireless
Cricket is focused on inspiring smiles, one meaningful connection at a time. Cricket offer an easy and high-quality wireless experience on their reliable nationwide network. Their affordable, straightforward service plans include monthly taxes, and don’t require an annual contract. Their customers also enjoy basic to top-brand phones at affordable prices.

Visit www.cricketwireless.com to learn more or find a store near you. Stay up-to-date with the Cricket Newsroom and connect with Cricket on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smile. You’re on Cricket.

About ESPN Events
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events nationwide. The roster includes four early-season college football games, 17 college bowl game, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 400 hours of live programming, reaches nearly 64 million viewers and attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite office in more than 10 markets across the country, ESPN Events builds relationships with conference, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.

For more information, visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages.

CLINTON, MS – The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff placed four runners in the top 20 to bring home the 2018 Southwestern Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country title, their fist since 1993.

The Golden Lions tallied 62 points, beating Prairie View A&M. The Panthers finished second for consecutive seasons, scoring 76 points. Grambling State finished third with 78 points. Wade Garner led the way, finishing fourth with a time of 26:20.3 Laurel Heath took 10th overall with a time of 26:50.44.

Rounding out the standings were Southern (98), Jackson State (102), Texas Southern (120), Alabama State (157), Mississippi Valley (195) and Alcorn State (220).

Vincent Langat bested the field with a time of 25:11:32 to earn the 2018 SWAC Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year award for the second year in a row. Texas Southern’s Hilary Maiyo was close behind, claiming second (25:20.91), and Lavante Williams finished third (25:28.57).

UAPB Coach Chris McCoy was named SWAC Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year.

 

The full All-SWAC list of athletes is below:

First-Team All-SWAC Men’s Cross Country

Vincent Langat (Jackson State; SWAC Men’s XC Runner of the Year)

Hilary Maiyo (Texas Southern)

Levante Williams (Prairie View A&M)

Wade Garner (UAPB)

Henry Kiplagat (Jackson State)

Second-Team All-SWAC Men’s Cross Country

Jorge Martinez (Texas Southern)

Worthington Moore (Prairie View A&M)

Matthew Kibet (Alabama State)

Hassan Chepkwony (Grambling)

Laural Heath (UAPB)

Duer Sharp.

BIRMINGHAM, AL – The long-serving commissioner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) which serves historically black member institutions, Duer Sharp, has resigned this past Thursday amid rumors of potential financial issues and concern among member school presidents about the direction of the conference under his leadership.

According to The Advocate, The SWAC will hold its winter meetings in Houston, where school presidents and chancellors met Thursday morning. Southern director of athletics Roman Banks stated that the council of presidents accepted Sharp’s resignation. But it is unsure whether Sharp’s resignation is effective immediately, or if he will stay in his post throughout the remainder of his contract, which is set to expire this summer.

As of today, the SWAC office has yet to issue a statement regarding Sharp’s future.

Banks stated that there was no official record of who was or was not displeased with Sharp’s performance as commissioner. But Banks said, there was a unanimous concern” about the SWAC stability and the direction the league was taking.

“Also among the concerns was a lack of sponsorships,” Banks said, which “prompted us (Southern) to look around at other leagues.”

 Sharp started with the conference as assistant commissioner in 2004 and has served as commissioner since 2008. Under he leadership, the league secured a spot in the Celebration Bowl opposite the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion, and it also orchestrated the move of the league’s football and basketball conference championships to Houston in 2013.
Earlier this year, the SWAC announced that this year’s football conference championship game would be its last.

The decision is believed to be related to the high cost of hosting the game at NRG Stadium in Houston, the home of the Houston Texans. And when combined with an earlier decision to change the league’s scheduling format from a nine-game round-robin schedule to a seven-game schedule, which opened the door for potential chaos when it came to determining a sole champion to represent the SWAC in the Celebration Bowl.

“By focusing on the Celebration Bowl, we can continue to grow (it) as an HBCU classic for the teams and fans of both conferences and for HBCU football nationally,” Sharp said in June.

 Banks said SWAC athletics directors “unanimously agreed” to look at re-instituting the SWAC championship game next season when the conference will still operate with a seven-game schedule

“We need to be fair,” Banks said. “We need to make sure it’s settled on the field.”