Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Southwestern Athletic Conference

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Established  1920
Members  10
Commissioner  Duer Sharp
Founded  1920
Division  Division I FCS
Region  Southern
Headquarters  Alabama, United States
Southwestern Athletic Conference imagecdnllnwnlxosnetworkcompics33800FJFJNUY
Sports fielded  18 (men's: 8; women's: 10)
Association  National Collegiate Athletic Association
Teams  Grambling State Tigers foo, Southern Jaguars football, Alcorn State Braves fo, Alabama State Hornets f, Texas Southern Tigers foo
Similar  Jackson State University, National Collegiate Athletic A, Atlantic Sun Conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic C, Bethune‑Cookman University

The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is a collegiate athletic conference headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, which is made up of historically black universities (HBCUs) in the Southern United States. It participates in the NCAA's Division I for all sports; in football, it participates in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), still frequently referred to by its former designation of Division I-AA.


The SWAC is widely considered the premier HBCU conference and ranks among the elite in the nation in terms of alumni affiliated with professional sports teams, particularly in football. On the gridiron, the conference has been the biggest draw on the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level of the NCAA, leading the nation in average home attendance for 37 of the 38 years the FCS has been in existence. In 1994, the SWAC fell just 40,000 fans short of becoming the first non-Football Bowl Subdivision conference to attract one million fans to its home games.


In 1920, athletic officials from six Texas HBCUs — C.H. Fuller of Bishop College, Red Randolph and C.H. Patterson of Paul Quinn College, E.G. Evans, H.J. Evans and H.J. Starns of Prairie View A&M, D.C. Fuller of Texas College and G. Whitte Jordan of Wiley College — met in Houston, Texas, to discuss common interests. At this meeting, they agreed to form a new league, the SWAC.

Paul Quinn became the first of the original members to withdraw from the league in 1929. When Langston University of Oklahoma was admitted into the conference two years later, it began the migration of state-supported institutions into the SWAC. Southern University entered the ranks in 1934, followed by Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) in 1936 and Texas Southern University in 1954.

Rapid growth in enrollment of the state-supported schools made it difficult for the church-supported schools to finance their athletics programs and one by one they fell victim to the growing prowess of the state-supported colleges. Bishop withdrew from the conference in 1956, Langston in 1957 and Huston-Tillotson (formerly Samuel Huston) in 1959, one year after the admittance of two more state-supported schools: Grambling College and Jackson State College. The enter-exit cycle continued in 1961 when Texas College withdrew, followed by the admittance of Alcorn A&M (now Alcorn State University) in 1962. Wiley left in 1968, the same year Mississippi Valley State College entered. Arkansas AM&N exited in 1970 and Alabama State University entered in 1982. Arkansas–Pine Bluff (formerly Arkansas AM&N) rejoined the SWAC on July 1, 1997, regaining full-member status one year later. Alabama A&M University became the conference’s tenth member when it became a full member in September, 1999 after a one-year period as an affiliate SWAC member. Most of the former SWAC members that have left the conference are currently a part of the Red River Athletic Conference of the NAIA.

The SWAC is one of two conferences – the other being the Ivy League – that does not participate in the FCS football playoffs. The SWAC instead splits its schools into two divisions, and plays a conference championship game. Three of the SWAC's teams, Alabama State in the Turkey Day Classic and Grambling and Southern in the Bayou Classic, play their last games of the regular season on Thanksgiving weekend, preventing the SWAC Championship from being decided until the first weekend of December, long after the tournament is underway. The SWAC has occasionally been a participant in bowl games, the most recent being the Celebration Bowl, which features the SWAC as one of its tie-ins.

Current championship competition offered by the SWAC includes competition for men in baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, indoor track, outdoor track & field and tennis. Women’s competition is offered in the sports of basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, indoor track, outdoor track & field, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball.

Current full members

The SWAC comprises ten schools.

  • Arkansas–Pine Bluff was a member of the SWAC from 1936 to 1970 as Arkansas AM&N before re-joining in the 1997-98 academic season, and to gain full member status a year later.
  • Former members


    1. - Upon the closure of Bishop College, Paul Quinn College relocated from Waco to Dallas and re-established itself at the Bishop College campus.
    2. - Huston–Tillotson University was formerly known as Samuel Huston College.


    The SWAC sponsors championship competitions in eight men's and ten women's NCAA sanctioned sports:


    Prior to splitting into divisions and using a postseason championship game to decide its overall champion, the SWAC determined its champions by winning-percentage against conference opponents in regular season play.

    In 1933 Langston appeared to win the title outright with a 4-0 conference record after the regular season, while Wiley finished 4-1, and Prairie View A&M finished 3-1. Langston was invited to the Prairie View Bowl, which was won by Prairie View. The Panthers subsequently declared themselves SWAC champions even though their claim was based on a postseason game. The SWAC seems to acknowledge both schools' claims to the title in the conference's football media guide, although some other sources including Michael Hurd's Black College Football, 1892–1992: One Hundred Years of History, Education, and Pride (1993) also list Wiley as an additional co-champion, apparently since all three schools had 4-1 records against conference opponents if the postseason game is incorporated into the regular season conference standings.

    Prairie View vacated its 1941 championship. No championship was awarded in 1943 due to World War II. Grambling State vacated its 1975 championship due to a violation of SWAC rules for scheduling opponents.

    Games from 1999–2012 were played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The conference moved the game in 2013 to NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Starting in 2015, the winner of the SWAC will play the winner of the MEAC conference in an overall HBCU championship bowl game called the Celebration Bowl in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The MEAC gave up its automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs for this game.

    Texas Southern vacated its 2010 championship due to violations of NCAA rules.

    Since splitting into western and eastern divisions and using a postseason championship game to decide its overall champion, the SWAC determines its division champions by winning-percentage against conference opponents in regular season play. For the 1999 season only, inter-divisional conference games did not count in the conference standings. Each division's outright champion or top-seeded co-champion advances to the championship game.

    Texas Southern vacated its 2010 division championship due to violations of NCAA rules.

    Note: an asterisk denotes the division's top-seeded co-champion and representative in the SWAC Championship Game; a double-asterisk denotes that the division's co-champion was ineligible for the SWAC Championship Game due to a violation of SWAC rules that were in effect from 2011 to 2014 concerning APR scores

    Men's basketball

    The SWAC Basketball Tournament is held at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston, Texas starting in 2014. Starting with the 2017 tournament, the tournament will feature an eight team three-day layout with the quarterfinal rounds hosted on campus sites. This changes the previous 10-team, five-day tournament format. The higher seeded teams will host a combined eight games leaving two days for travel and practice rounds. The tournament concludes with the semi-finals and championship round inside Houston’s Toyota Center. The championship game is nationally televised live annually on an ESPN network.


    This is a list of the last 10 SWAC Baseball Tournament champions. For the full history, see Southwestern Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament.

    SWAC marching bands

    Marching bands have a rich tradition being a centerpiece of pride and school spirit for each institution in the conference. Furthermore, the competitiveness, prestige, visibility, and showmanship of SWAC marching bands significantly add to the unique identity and culture of the conference.


    Southwestern Athletic Conference Wikipedia