Is the Birmingham SWAC Classic In Trouble?
Two straight years of cancellations has hopes of an additional SWAC game in Legion Field dwindling by the day.
For the second straight year, a Jackson State game at Legion Field fell through. Last season, their SWAC Classic game at Legion Field against Arkansas Pine-Bluff was on the slate and then vanished when Jackson State announced its schedule. This year, the SWAC-backed Birmingham classic will not hit the field yet again after negotiations between officials and the Southern athletic department fell through.
Not only are the two consecutive seasons of cancellations alarming, but the growing rate at which new classics are emerging is also cause for concern. Each day, it seems like the logical pool of SWAC schools to play in this game dwindles.
Just in the last few weeks alone, we saw Mississippi Valley State gain a spot in the Chicago Football Classic, Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium schedule games featuring Alabama State and A&M, and Gambling schedule a return game in the New York City metro.
The SWAC Classic may soon become an afterthought with one year on its contract left and options quickly running out. There is still one game left on the original contract with 2024's SWAC Classic being the Boombox Classic between Southern and Jackson State.
While there is an option to extend the SWAC Classic to 2025 and 2026, the growing number of classics begs the question of who would want to move a home game to Legion Field. Additionally, the 2025 and 2026 games would be tough sells with Southern playing Alabama State. Not only is Baton Rouge a 5.5-hour drive from Birmingham, but Alabama State already plays in the Magic City Classic yearly, so a second trip to Birmingham is not very enticing.
Of all the schools in the SWAC, the one that makes the most sense is Alcorn State. Alcorn State is not tied to any yearly neutral site HBCU classic and the 4.5-hour drive from Lorman is not too bad. The Braves are still a frontrunner in the SWAC so the league gets to place a marquee school in its league-branded classic.
Mississippi Valley State looks like another option, but it remains to be seen whether they'll be a fixture in the revived Chicago Football Classic, which they have appeared in seven times before their return this season.
Arkansas Pine-Bluff was slated to play in the 2022 SWAC Classic against Jackson State but now looks to be the permanent co-headliner in the Southern Heritage Classic after Jackson State's departure. Jackson State is also an attractive option. but they are in the middle of a three-year run in the Gulf Coast Challenge at Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The SWAC and Legion Field's intentions were great when they agreed to start the SWAC Classic in January 2022. Legion Field's future remains a contentious issue in Birmingham and they were willing to pay the SWAC a good sum of money; $300,000 for each game.
However, logistics became a hurdle and two of the three games in the contract have not occurred as planned. 2024 may be the last chance for the SWAC Classic to get off the ground and the odds are against them.