SWAC Media Day 2015: Scott Rabalais’ Four Downs _lowres

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Alabama A&M coach James Spady speaks with his team during a timeout against Southern, Saturday, Oct. 11, at Lewis Crews Stadium.

1. APR CLOUDS CLEARING

SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp knew his league was in for a painful transition when the NCAA unveiled its Academic Progress Rate standards. Six schools, including Southern and Grambling, came up short of the APR requirements, leading to sanctions. But now five of the SWAC’s six schools in question are back in compliance. “Our schools have done a much better job of understanding APR,” Sharp said.

2. FROM WORST TO PREDICTED FIRST

Two years ago, Grambling’s football program was in utter disarray, from the firing of then-coach Doug Williams to players boycotting the interim coach and their dilapidated facilities. Two years later, Grambling was the choice Friday to finish first in the SWAC West by a narrow vote over two-time division champion Southern. Even for a program with as rich a history as Grambling, it’s a remarkable story.

3. PLAYING UP

Alabama A&M coach James Spady sarcastically thanked his athletic director for scheduling an early-season game with Cincinnati. But the Bulldogs aren’t the only school playing up this season. Southern has games at Louisiana Tech and Georgia, Alcorn State travels to Georgia Tech and Grambling goes all the way out west for a game at California, a reprise of its globetrotting ways under Eddie Robinson.

4. IT’S A CELEBRATION

Arkansas-Pine Bluff and South Carolina State open Sept. 6 in Orlando, Florida, in the SWAC-MEAC Challenge. That’s been around for awhile. The SWAC and MEAC will square off in the new Celebration Bowl on Dec. 19 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game will be televised on ABC, providing the SWAC with the kind of bowl season exposure it hasn’t had since the demise of the Heritage Bowl.