Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Commissioner.

LORMAN, MS – Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Commissioner and Alcorn State University alumnus, will give the speech during Alcorn’s Fall 2021 Commencement Saturday, Dec. 11, at 9 a.m., at the Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.

A native of Heidelberg, Miss., Thomas earned his 20th year as MEAC Commissioner back in September. During his two decades of service, the conference has remained financially stable, strengthened institutional compliance, and improved student-athlete graduation rates. He’s gained distinction as one of the leasing collegiate administrators in America.

In a progressive move, Thomas inked a deal with GYO Score to create the conference’s esports community. He also executed his goal of purchasing the conference’s first office complex, which is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. The accomplishment marked the first time a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) conference owned its headquartered property without assessing MEAC institutions. Thomas also accomplished another first when led the MEAC to become the first NCAA Division I FCS conference to institute instant replay during its televised regular-season football games.

Thomas’ mission to increase the conference’s corporate resources led to multi-year partnerships with Cricket Wireless, Russell Athletic Corporation, Coca-Cola, State Farm Insurance, Nike, Wells Fargo, ESPN, Jostens, United States Marines, Home Depot, Geico, Colgate Palmolive, Delta Airlines and the National Football League (NFL). Commissioner Thomas was instrumental in forging a partnership with the NFL to improve officiating and provide access to MEAC officials to advance to the next level. In May 2016, Commissioner Thomas also helped broker an off-the-field partnership between the NFL and the MEAC to boost opportunities for non-playing careers in professional football.

In 2017, the MEAC partnered with Collegiate Sports Management Group (CSMG), entering into a multi-year agreement in an effort to increase the conference’s corporate partnerships and branding. The relationship focuses on marketing and sponsorship rights, as well as helping to develop more national strategies across all avenues to assist with generating revenue for the conference and MEAC institutions.

Thomas was a four-year letterman in football and track and field in high school, and at the age of 16, he embarked upon a collegiate career that is still in the SWAC’s record books. In 1973, he made history as the first and only offensive lineman to be named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, beating out JSU’s Walter Payton for the honor. He finished his collegiate career as a three-year letterman at Alcorn State, a two-tome Pittsburgh Courier First Team All-American (1972-73), First Team Black Mutual Sports Network All-American (1973), and the Outstanding College Athlete of American (1974).

Thomas coached and played under the legendary coach Marino “The Godfather” Casem. During his playing and coaching tenure at Alcorn State, the Braves won SWAC football championships in 1970 as a player and 1976, 1979, and 1984 as an assistant coach.

Thomas was inducted into Hampton University’s inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 2009. He has also been enshrined into the Alcorn State University (Miss.) Hall of Fame (2010), the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame (2003), and the Black College Football Hall of Fame (2020).

Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree from Alcorn State University. He later earned his master’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and his doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Commissioner Dr. Dennis E. Thomas, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 SWAC Lifetime Achievement Award. Thomas is an alumnus of Alcorn State.

During his collegiate playing career, Thomas was a standout offensive lineman at Alcorn State where he was a two-time Pittsburgh Courier All-American (1972 and 1973), and was named SWAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1973 – the first and only offensive lineman to win the award. Thomas was a member of the Braves’ 1970 SWAC championship team, and his team, and his teams went a combined 27-8-1.

He is currently in his 20th year as Commissioner of the MEAC, following a period of nearly two decades that has seen the conference remain financially stable, strengthen institutional compliance and improve student-athlete graduation rates. In the process, he has gained the distinction as one of leading collegiate athletics administrators in America.

The steady leadership of Thomas has reassured the league’s student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans alike that their health and safety take precedence over athletics competitions, in keeping with the MEAC’s motto of “Educating Student-Athletes for the Game of Life.”

The MEAC celebrated its Golden Anniversary in 2020-21, celebrating 50 years since its founding in 1970. Under Thomas’ guidance, the conference continues to be a pacesetter even during a global pandemic.

Thomas is scheduled to be formally recognized at the 2021 SWAC Hall of Fame presented by Pepsi on Friday, December 17th at 6 p.m. CST/7 p.m. EST at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.

About the SWAC
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is considered one of the premier HBCU conferences in the country and currently ranks among the elite in the nation in terms of HBCU alumni playing with professional sports teams

Current championship competition offered by the league includes competition for men in Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field and Tennis

Women’s competition is offered in the sports of Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Golf, Indoor Track and Field, Outdoor Track and Field, Soccer, Softball, Tennis and Volleyball.

ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, has announced a three-year sponsorship agreement with Cricket Wireless, who will be the new title sponsor for the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Celebration Bowl. Both events, which are staged in Atlanta, celebrate the tradition, legacy and value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“We are delighted to have Cricket Wireless as the title sponsor of both our football kickoff and bowl games,” said John Grant, executive director for the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Celebration Bowl. “These events provide valuable diversity to the sports offering in the city of Atlanta. This relationship reflects our mutul passion for and appreciation of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the vaulable contributions they make to our nation. We look forward to working together and building world-class events in a world-class city.”

ESPN Events’ relationship with Cricket began with the sponsorship of the 2018 Celebration Bowl. Cricket’s support of HBCUs began with an agreement with Southern University, which eventually expanded to include sponsorship of the Magic City Classic and Bayou Classic. In October 2020, Cricket and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) announced a sponsorship agreement extension through 2023.

“At Cricket, we’re all about creating a meaningful connection with our customers and within the communities where we operate,” said Tiffany Baehman, vice president and chief marketing officer, Cricket Wireless. “Our extended relationship with ESPN allows us to continue to introduce our brand to HBCU students, alumni and fans. It also means that we can help amplify the rich culture and legacy of HBCUs, and the positive impact they have on the Black community.

The Cricket Wireless MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff – an early-season matchup of HBCU football teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) – is played at the Georgia State’s Center Parc Credit Union Stadium. The Cricket Celebration Bowl is played each year, with the game typically opening the college bowl season, from Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Due to the current health pandemic, both events were cancelled for the 2020 season, but excepted to return in 2021. Fans can re-live and enjoy last year’s Celebration Bowl between Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T on Thursday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. Those interesed in joining a virtual watch party can sign up here.

Information regarding the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Cricket Celebration Bowl can be found at www.meacswacchallenge.com and www.TheCelebrationBowl.com.

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About ESPN Events
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a portfolio of 35 collegiate sporting events nationwide. The roster includes four early-season college football games, 17 college bowl game, 11 college basketball events, a college softball event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 400 hours of live programming, reaches nearly 64 million viewers and attracts over 800,000 attendees each year. With satellite office in more than 10 markets across the country, ESPN Events builds relationships with conference, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.

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