Houston Forward Times

04 December 2013 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney

SWAC Football Championship and Alumni Association Bring Thousands of Attendees to Houston

The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is returning to its original roots in Houston and thousands of visitors will descend upon the Bayou City this weekend.

The SWAC Alumni Association will honor three Southwestern Athletic Conference stalwarts during its annual Legends Reception & Awards Dinner and Roast on Friday, December 6, at the Sheraton Suites Hotel near the Galleria in Houston and the 2013 Toyota SWAC Football Championship will be played at Reliant Stadium on Saturday, December 7.

The SWAC consists of ten universities. The East Division is comprised of: Alabama A&M University; Alabama State University; Alcorn State University; Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University. Universities making up the West Division are: University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Grambling State University; Prairie View A&M University; Southern University and Texas Southern University.

The SWAC Alumni Association was founded in Birmingham, Ala., in 1999 during the inaugural SWAC Championship Football Game out of concern that the conference’s legacy of athletic excellence was being forgotten. Its goal is to support conference activities, honor SWAC’s tradition of athletic excellence and preserve its heritage as one of the premier conferences in the nation. Former athletes who competed in any sport at SWAC member institutions are eligible for membership, as are former coaches in all sports, athletic trainers, athletic administrators, game officials, employees of the conference office and supporters of SWAC athletics.

Dr. Dennis Thomas, commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and a SWAC Hall of Fame offensive lineman for Alcorn State, Dr. Rod Paige, former football coach at Jackson State and athletic director at Texas Southern who was Secretary of Education during George H.W. Bush’s presidency, and Zelmo Beaty, an All-American basketball player at Prairie View A&M and NBA All-Star, will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards. Beaty will be honored posthumously. Harlan Stefann Robinson, Marketing and Promotions Manager at Texas Southern University, will receive the Charles “Chuck’’ Prophet Memorial Wagon Master Award. This award is named in honor of Chuck Prophet, the long-time Sports Information Director and Athletic Director at Mississippi Valley State University. It is presented annually to an employee of a conference member institution who best exemplifies Chuck’s spirit and dedication and loyalty to their school and SWAC. Former Texas Southern and Houston Oilers wide receiver Kenny Burrough is the guest of honor for the Roast. The evening’s activities get underway at 6 p.m. with the Legends Reception; awards presentation, dinner and the roast followDr Rod Paige at 7.

Paige, a native of Monticello, Miss., was a three-year letterman in football at Jackson State and a team captain his senior season.  He was named the Tigers head football coach in 1964 after having been an assistant coach for the football and basketball teams and head track coach.  Paige coached a number of Jackson State’s top football players, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney, Harold Jackson and Jerome Barkum. He has the distinction of coaching the first game that Jackson State played at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, a 24-16 victory against Grambling. 

Thomas is a native of Heidelberg, MiDr Dennis Thomasss.  He enrolled at Alcorn at age 16 and was a three-year letterman, a two-time Pittsburgh Courier First Team All-American, a First Team Black Mutual Sports Network All-American and the Outstanding College Athlete of America in 1974.   Thomas was an assistant coach on the staff of Hall of Fame coach Marino “The Godfather” Casem and helped the Braves win SWAC championships in 1976, 1979, and 1984.

Beaty was born in Hillster, Texas, and attended Scott High in Woodville, Texas. Zelmo BeatyHe was a four-time All-SWAC performer at Prairie View. He led the Panthers to the 1962 NAIA National Championship and was named MVP of the NAIA Tournament.  Beaty was also named to the first-team Small College All-American Team in 1962.  He is Prairie View’s career leader in points (2,285), rebounds (1,604) and field goals attempted (1,405) and made (703). Beaty also holds the school single season record for rebounds (700 in 1961-62) as well the record for most rebounds in a game (32 against Wiley in 1961). Beaty played professionally in the NBA and ABA for 12 seasons  with the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks, Utah Stars and Los Angeles Lakers after the Hawks made him the third player picked in the 1962 NBA Draft.  He was MVP of the 1971 ABA playoffs as he led the Stars to the league championship.  Beaty was a two-time NBA All-Star and a three-time ABA All-Star. He died Aug. 27, 2013 at age 73.

Harlan Stefann RobinsonRobinson, a graduate of Alcorn State, has been involved in athletic administration for more than 25 years. He began his career as assistant sports information director at his alma mater. He has also worked at Albany State University, Southern University and Prairie View.  He has been involved in planning and organizing a number of major athletic events, the Bayou Classic, the State Fair Classic, the TSU Relays, the Labor Day Classic, the Atlanta Football Classic and the Southwestern Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament. He also has represented the athletics department in institutional fund raising projects to help enhance the department’s financial resources.

Then on Saturday, the West and East Division champions will hit the field for a 1 p.m. kickoff to determine the 2013 SWAC Champion. The Southern Jaguars clinched the SWAC West Division title with a 7-2 conference record and the Jackson State Tigers clinched the SWAC East Division Title with an 8-1 conference record. The West Division champions will serve as the visiting team for the 2013 Toyota SWAC Football Championship with its bench located on the East side of the stadium.

Formerly, the SWAC Football Championship was played in Birmingham, Alabama, but SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp stated that one of the primary objectives of the SWAC is to provide their student-athletes with the best championship experience.

“We are looking forward to our partnership with the City of Houston and Reliant Stadium,” said SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp. “The opportunity to play in professional venues enhances the experience of our student-athletes and fans.”

The 2013 Toyota SWAC Football Championship will also include the Battle of the Bands competition featuring all of the conference member institutions. The Battle of the Bands competition will begin immediately following the football championship game at Reliant Stadium and admission to the contest is included with purchase of a game ticket.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously in May at their annual conference spring meetings to relocate the 2013 Toyota SWAC Football Championship and 2014 Basketball Tournament to Houston, Texas for the next three seasons.  The SWAC basketball tournament is slated for March 11-15, 2014 at the Toyota Center.

The Houston Forward Times welcomes the SWAC back to Houston and encourages all visitors to enjoy the SWAC Championship and the many phenomenal things that make up our fair city.