An outside tweet can rarely inspire an article on this platform, but that's the case here, as a tweet from @kelnplay sparked a question that we believe many people have but may not ask. "Why would HBCUs play in the Celebration Bowl and forgo the FCS playoffs? Is winning the FCS championship a better prize than winning the Celebration Bowl? John Grant, Executive Direction of the Cricket Celebration Bowl, desires to make the Celebration Bowl the SUPER BOWL of black college football. His thought is simple: there are only two Black College Football conferences in Division 1 football: the SWAC and the MEAC. When the champions from these two conferences meet in Atlanta, the outcome of THAT GAME determines the winners of Black College Football. He believes the game determines the champions, even above the many publications, writers, and other media members who vote yearly to determine a champion of black college football. The Celebration Bowl committee is continuously hoping to create the ultimate game and fan experience for lovers of HBCU football. Nevertheless, the question is asked yearly, "Why would HBCUs skip the FCS playoffs for the Celebration Bowl?". More specifically, this tweet read,
Let's briefly compare the FCS Championship Game and the Celebration Bowl.
First, let's look at attendance in both games. Last year's FCS Championship Game drew a crowd of 18,942, while the Celebration Bowl hosted 48,653 attendees. This gap in attendance is not a one-year statistic because of Coach Sanders. Since 2015 the Celebration Bowl has topped the FCS Championships Game in attendance. Here we will highlight three years and the attendance numbers:
FCS Championship Game Attendance 2017 - 14,423
Celebration Bowl Attendance 2017 - 25,873
FCS Championship Game Attendance 2018 - 19,090
Celebration Bowl Attendance 2018. - 31,672
FCS Championship Game Attendance 2019 - 17,802
Celebration Bowl Attendance 2019 - 32,968
The FCS playoffs do add to the overall attendance of FCS postseason attendance numbers. However, the payoff at the end, The FCS Championship Game, doesn't equate to a crowd close to a Jackson State home football game.
Jackson State lost to South Carolina State on ESPN with the world watching in the first bowl game of the College Football Bowl Season. It turned South Carolina State wide receiver Shaquan "Shaq" Davis into a viral sensation and SC State cornerback Decobie Durant into a prospect NFL teams had to pay attention to during the pre-draft process. Last season FCS champion North Dakota State was crowned champion on ESPN 2 as they defeated the Montana State Bobcats. While the game's viewership significantly increased after the FCS deal with ABC, the Celebration Bowl topped its viewership by nearly 1.3 million views (showbuzzdaily.com and HBCU GameDay). The Celebration Bowl also beat the FCS playoffs head-to-head as the Celebration Bowl nearly doubled the viewership of the FCS Semifinal games (according to HBCU GameDay).
Let's Talk Turkey - (translation) Money
In addition to the Celebration Bowl giving National Exposure, recruiting tools, and a larger in-person and TV audience than the FCS Championship, the Cricket Celebration Bowl gives $1 million to each school involved in the game.
That's in addition to the many donations from companies like Disney. Also, both schools save the money it would cost to travel multiple times to each playoff game, as Coach Prime mentioned in his meeting with the press after his weekend on ESPN College Football GameDay. Coach Deion Sanders said he prefers to play in the Celebration Bowl over the FCS Playoffs. "The Celebration Bowl, what they do for us financially, is far greater than what an FCS game would do for you." Coach Sanders went on to say, "I don't know if we have the resources to travel three weeks or however long it takes to really be the champions of that, ... financially we're in a much better place with the Celebration Bowl, playing in front of our people as well."
It seems that the Celebration Bowl is the preferred destination for HBCU coaches because of the audience, the exposure, and the financial benefits to their program. It could also be because of the history as HBCU schools haven't faired well in the playoffs. There seems to be a group of people that believe Coach Sanders does not believe he can compete in the FCS playoffs with the likes of North Dakota State and others. If for some reason the Tigers did not make it to the Celebration Bowl or the SWAC Championship Game, which seems inevitable, it would be interesting to see if they decide participate in the FCS playoffs.