The Southwestern Athletic Conference is bringing its biggest championship events back home.
The SWAC office announced Thursday that it has reached agreements with the city of Birmingham, Alabama, to host its annual football championship game and its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The conference office also has its headquarters in Birmingham.
The SWAC Championship Game will be Dec. 1 at Legion Field, where it was held from its 1999 inception through 2012. The football game was in Houston's NRG Stadium the past four years.
The SWAC basketball tournaments will be at Bill Harris Arena from March 13-16.
“I’m grateful to Mayor Randall Woodfin and (the) City of Birmingham on this renewed partnership to bring the SWAC football and basketball championships back to the Magic City,” SWAC interim commissioner Edgar Gantt said in a conference news release. “Birmingham is a city rich in sports tradition, particularly with SWAC football, and the city has made many improvements to its sports infrastructure here in Birmingham. This next year will play an important part as the SWAC prepares for its centennial celebration (in 2020).”
The SWAC had originally planned to scrap its conference championship game after 2017, citing conflicts with the Celebration Bowl between SWAC and MEAC champions.
But there was significant pushback from SWAC member schools. Southern athletic director Roman Banks said conference athletic directors “unanimously agreed” to reinstitute the championship game.
SU football coach Dawson Odums was in favor of keeping the title game, as well.
“I always think it’s better (to have the championship game),” Southern football coach Dawson Odums said. “I understand why they said they were no longer going to have it with the venue in Houston and the finances involved. But at the end of the day, I’m glad the conference has to play something.
“It’s important. We don’t go to the (FCS) playoffs; we get to play the Celebration Bowl. But you owe it to the players to give them that championship experience.”
The Celebration Bowl will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Dec. 15, two weeks after the SWAC Championship Game.
The basketball tournament was last held in Birmingham in 2009. The SWAC then moved the event to Bossier City; Garland, Texas; and Houston over the next nine seasons, to varying degrees of success.
The SWAC basketball semifinals and finals were also held last year in Houston at the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets. First-round games were at on-campus sites hosted by the higher-seeded team.
“We look forward to again hosting SWAC fans for these premiere events,” Woodfin said.