The Black College National Championship (BCNC) is awarded annually to the best historically black college (HBCU) football team(s) in the United States.
Initially, starting in 1920, the Black College National Champion was simply declared by the Pittsburgh Courier at the end of the football season. In the nearly one hundred years since then, other media outlets and organizations, sometimes more directly affiliated with the schools, also crown a national champion following each football season.
Over the years attempts have been made to determine the Black College National Championship (BCNC) with an actual football game contested by leading teams among HBCUs throughout the United States. The Orange Blossom Classic was often billed as such a game, but Florida A&M, as its annual host, was guaranteed a spot in this game and was not always of national championship-caliber each year that it was played between 1933 and 1978. The Pelican Bowl, a bowl game that attempted to match up the conference champions from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, was one such example, but this venture failed to draw steady attendance and it lasted only a few years during the 1970s.
The Heritage Bowl was played in the 1990s and featured the conference champions from the MEAC and SWAC, but this bowl game has not been held since 1999 and was sometimes snubbed in lieu of the NCAA’s then-Division I-AA playoffs. The two conferences began negotiations in 2010 to create a successor called the “Legacy Bowl” with hopes for it to begin with the 2011 postseason, but it failed to materialize.
However, in December 2015 the first Celebration Bowl was played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA and before a national TV audience on ABC, pitting the champions of both the MEAC and SWAC against each other.
Over the years , there has developed some slight criticism of this title (Black College National Championship) on the basis that the schools compete in different levels of competition (e.g., National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II vs. the FCS level of Division I). Also, HBCUs have successfully challenged majority white schools for football championships for decades now, within the framework of both NCAA and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics competition; this includes Associated Press, United Press International, NCAA, and NAIA-sponsored titles for the 1962, 1973, 1978, 1990, 1992, and 1995 seasons, as well as runner-up finishes in 1963, 1983, 1991, 1994, and 2012.