Executive Director, MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff and Celebration Bowl
John T. Grant, Jr. is the executive director of the Cricket Celebration Bowl and the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff, college football games in Atlanta that are owned and operated by ESPN Events. A highly respected business leader in Atlanta and one of the most influential figures in Black college athletics, Grant joined ESPN Events in August 2015.
As the executive director, Grant has grown the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff into a marquee annual event between college football programs from the Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences. Grant has also built the Cricket Celebration Bowl into the crown jewel of Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) football with champions of the MEAC and SWAC playing at Mercedes Benz Stadium each December in a nationally-televised ABC broadcast for the unofficial Black college football national championship.
Grant’s tireless work in both events and helping grow the national exposure of HBCU football led him to being named one of the 20 Most Influential Black Figures in College Football by Sports Illustrated in 2023.
In all, Grant has worked in the Atlanta market for more than three decades. Prior to ESPN, he was the chief executive officer of 100 Black Men of Atlanta, an organization that provides support and improves the quality of life for African Americans, particularly youth, through educational and economic opportunities in the Atlanta community.
Grant joined Airborne Express in 1979 and just two years later was promoted to Area Operations Manager in Greenville, S.C. In 1985, he was relocated to Atlanta, where he served in several areas including leading the operations, customer service and sales organizations.
Grant’s personal achievements led to numerous company awards, including several National Sales Awards for the highest growth ranking among his peers, Sky Courier District Sales Manager of the Year, and the company’s first and only Humanitarian Award in 1997. He also led the development of the company’s internal mentoring program.
In 1988, just four years after moving to Atlanta, Grant became the youngest member to join the 100 Black Men of Atlanta at the age of 30. He was voted its Man of the Year in 1989 after leading the organization’s flagship program, Project Success. He served as an elected member of the Board until his selection as Chief Executive Officer in 2001. Grant also served as Chairman of the Atlanta Football Classic, the organization’s largest fundraiser from 1999-2001. Under his leadership, the event set record attendance and revenue levels each year and grew into one of the top three recurring sporting events in the state.
Grant has received numerous awards and recognition. He was selected by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the 100 Most Influential Atlantans, 100 Most Influential in Hospitality, 50 Most Influential Non-Profit Leaders, ‘50 Most Influential Leaders in Sports, and 2016 Who’s Who in Sports. He was inducted into the 2015 Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame, and he was named one of Atlanta’s 2016 Men of the Year by Atlanta Tribune Magazine. Also, the Atlanta Friendship Initiative, a non-profit aimed at building relationships among Atlanta leaders to eliminate racism that Grant co-founded in 2016, was recipient of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2022 Visionary Award.
Grant currently serves on several boards including the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Atlanta Sports Council, and the Executive Committee of the National Wildlife Federation.
A native of Potecasi, N.C., Grant attended North Carolina A&T State University.