2016 AFR Celebration Bowl Reports Significant Total Live Audience Increase

Atlanta, GA - December 17, 2016 - Georgia Dome: Chad Williams (10) of the Grambling State University Tigers during the 2016 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)
Atlanta, GA – December 17, 2016 – Georgia Dome: Grambling State’s Chad Williams (10) and North Carolina Central’s Nolan Corpening (36) leap for a pass the first quarter of the 2016 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

ATLANTA – The second annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, played on December 17, 2016 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta delivered a total live audience (TV + streaming) of 2,723,000 viewers, a 6% increase over the inaugural 2015 game. The SWAC champion and FCS #14 Grambling State Tigers (12-1) prevailed 10-9 in a defensive battle over the MEAC champion and FCS #18 North Carolina Central Eagles (9-3). The Tigers, led by third year coach Broderick Fobbs, were named HBCU national champions as a result of their victory.

The audience for ESPN’s SportsCenter on the Road also increased in comparison to last year. The show was once again on site and reported for three hour, one extra hour over 2015. Both the NCCU Sound Machine and World Famed Grambling State Tiger Marching Bands were featured through live performances throughout the morning. The 11 a.m.-12 p.m. hour leading up to kickoff was the most watched SportsCenter of the day.

“We are excited to see a significant increase in both our TV audience and streaming audience,” said John Grant, executive director of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. “2015 was already a great start and we showed the nation that the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl is a game worthy of kicking off the annual bowl season. Our strong ratings increase in 2016 validates our investment into the game and we are looking forward to an even better 2017 as the first bowl game from the then brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.”

Establishing itself as the first bowl game of the season, the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl is a postseason football game owned and operated by ESPN Events, a division of ESPN. It is a championship-style game between the MEAC and SWAC champions and has been televised on ABC each of its first two years. ESPN Events collaborates with 100 Black Men of Atlanta to organize the game’s ancillary events which include a youth symposium, robotics showcase, gospel night, fan experience and more.


ESPN Events
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games; FCS opening-weekend game; 13 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 250-plus hours of programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over 700,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and St. Petersburg, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.


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Grambling State Wins Thriller Over NC Central 10-9


The SWAC champion Grambling State Tigers (12-1) defeated the MEAC champion North Carolina Central Eagles (9-3) in the second annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on Saturday. North Carolina Central pulled within one with 2:14 left, but the extra point was blocked by Grambling’s Joesph McWilliams. 31,096 fans were on hand at the Georgia Dome, making the game the 2nd highest attended of six bowl games on Saturday. Grambling State RB Martez Carter took home Offensive MVP honors after logging 109 yards rushing, 23 receiving and 69 on returns. Linebacker Jameel Jackson was named Defensive MVP after coming up with a huge interception with less than 6 minutes remaining. With the win the Tigers were named the undisputed 2016 HBCU National Champions.

The game story, game notes and post-game quotes from both teams can be viewed at the links below:

2016 AFR Celebration Bowl Game Story
2016 AFR Celebration Bowl Game Notes
2016 AFR Celebration Bowl Post-Game Quotes – Grambling State
2016 AFR Celebration Bowl Post-Game Quotes – North Carolina Central

See below for more coverage:

ESPN Recap

WATCH: Trophy Presentation

WATCH: ESPN SportsCenter Highlight

The Undefeated Recap

WATCH: HBCU Gameday Video Recap

WATCH: NC Central Sound Machine Halftime Performance

WATCH: World Famed Grambling State Tiger Marching Band Performance




NFL Careers in Football Forum Comes to the AFR Celebration Bowl

The NFL’s first-annual Careers in Football Forum will bring together students and entry-level athletic department administrators from MEAC and SWAC schools to explore potential careers in professional football administration and to network with industry leaders.

The forum, to be held December 16, 2016 as part of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, will include lectures and panel discussions with NFL leadership and club executives, resume and skill-building workshops, a behind-the scenes look into football operations at the Celebration Bowl and the opportunity to work with the event operations team on game day.

The forum is part of an NFL partnership with two preeminent Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) athletic conferences — the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — and is designed to increase opportunities for promising ethnic minorities who are interested in pursuing careers in football administration.

The partnership will prepare both professionals and students with the skills necessary to successfully secure employment in professional football administration.

“Our partnership with the HBCUs is not only important for our pipeline of qualified individuals at all levels of football, but also to improve the NFL’s goals for diversity and inclusion,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. “With our HBCU partnership, we are making steady progress in developing future coaches, officials, scouts, managers, front office personnel and others through effective football resources, educational programs and internships.”

In addition to the NFL providing much-needed support to HBCU academic and athletic endeavors, MEAC and SWAC personnel will benefit from programs that include internships at the club and league level, integration of HBCU football operations staff — including athletic trainers, video directors and equipment managers — into existing NFL platforms such as the Regional Combines, and networking and mentorship opportunities.

“We are elated to continue our partnership with the National Football League, which includes our current officiating involvement, to advancing the NFL’s diversity and inclusion initiatives with a strategic plan to increase diversity in all areas of employment at the league office and the clubs,” said Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner Dennis Thomas.  “The MEAC is pleased to work collaboratively with the NFL to achieve its diversity and inclusion goals.”

A summit at the Celebration Bowl — the annual bowl game between the champions of the MEAC and SWAC, won by North Carolina A&T last season — will feature panel discussions for student-athletes competing in the game from NFL and club personnel who have played college football, introducing the players to non-playing opportunities in pro football.

Top sports management students from the competing universities along with entry-level athletic department administrators will be permitted to attend a separate NFL-themed panel.

“The Southwestern Athletic Conference is excited to partner with the NFL and MEAC to ensure that our student-athletes and students have exposure to superior professional development and the different career contingencies that the NFL and professional sports have to offer.” SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp said. “The NFL-HBCU Partnership is cutting edge and will allow our stakeholders and respective organizations the opportunity to foster long term relationships that will ultimately increase our visibility from campuses to corner offices. We are grateful that the NFL has taken such a profound stance in recognizing the potential of our student athletes, administrators, coaches and officials.”

The NFL has a long association with HBCU institutions, which have helped mold and shape some of the greats of the game, including Pro Football Hall of Famers Walter Payton (Jackson State), Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Bob Hayes (Florida A&M), Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State) and Aeneas Williams (Southern).

“The partnership between the NFL and the HBCU conferences will be outstanding,” Williams said. “Many students, executives and other talented individuals who may not have known about all of the avenues available to them in the NFL off the field, will have more of a chance to engage in activities and opportunities that will prepare them for a rewarding career in the game that we all love.”

Each MEAC and SWAC school may send up to four participants (two students and two administrators). Participants will be selected by their institutions through an application-based process.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Bethune-Cookman Daytona Beach, FL
Coppin State Baltimore, MD
Delaware State Dover, DE
Florida A&M Tallahassee, FL
Hampton Hampton, VA
Howard Washington, DC
Maryland Eastern Shore Princess Anne, MD
Morgan State Baltimore, MD
North Carolina A&T Greensboro, NC
North Carolina Central Durham, NC
Norfolk State Norfolk, VA
Savannah State Savannah, GA
South Carolina State Orangeburg, SC


Southwestern Athletic Conference
Alabama A&M Huntsville, AL
Alabama State Montgomery, AL
Alcorn State Lorman, MS
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Pine Bluff, AR
Grambling State Grambling, LA
Jackson State Jackson, MS
Mississippi Valley State Itta Bena, MS
Prairie View A&M Prairie View, TX
Southern Baton Rouge, LA
Texas Southern Houston, TX

WATCH: Full AFR Celebration Bowl Team Press Conference


Photo credit – Candace Ledbetter

On Thursday, December 8, both head coaches as well as bowl Executive Director John Grant were in Atlanta to preview to 2016 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. The press conference was moderated by Samuel Crenshaw, who currently serves as the Weekend Morning Host on CBS Atlanta Radio’s Sports Radio 92.9 The Game.

2016 AFR Celebration Bowl Team Press Conference

Executive Director John Grant, Grambling State head coach Broderick Fobbs and North Carolina Central head coach Jerry Mack offer their thoughts on the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

Posted by Facebook on Thursday, December 8, 2016

Some sample coverage from the press conference includes:

Atlanta Business Chronicle

Ebony Magazine