Bowl week has officially kicked off in the Bahamas.
Both participating teams in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl, the Ohio University Bobcats and the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers arrived in New Providence yesterday to begin a busy week of activities leading up to Friday’s matchup on the field.
The Bobcats were the first to arrive at the Atlantis Resort, and head coach Frank Solich said the entire programme was eager to enjoy their time in the Bahamas with the main focus – a win on the field.
“It’s a great destination, our players our staff our families really looked forward to getting down here and it was an enjoyable trip. I’ve been here a couple times previously, the people are great, it’s a very hospitable place. The bowl itself has grown. We expect to have a good time and play some good football at the end of it. For the players, coming to a warm destination like this is really exciting to them. You hear about the Bahamas, most of our players have never had a chance to be here so they’re delighted to actually get this opportunity and to be apart of it.”
The Bobcats went 8-4, 5-3 in the Mid American Conference play, and Solich leads the team to its 11th all-time bowl appearance in his 13th season at Ohio. He has taken the Bobcats to nine bowls, including in each of the last three seasons. He is the third-longest tenured coach in the FBS ranks.
“I’m excited about practice and I know that’s not the way the players are, they are excited so they will have some free time to enjoy the island and this location is as good as it gets,” he said, “I’m excited for them, they have been a really good football team, they have done a lot of great things with great leadership on the team and they deserve something like this. I want them to have fun but I want them to be able to play really good football too.”
The Blazers arrived later in the afternoon and head coach Bill Clark said his team will also seek to manage the time and focus on and off the field.
“For these players and these coaches, I could not think of a better way for them to be rewarded. There was no doubt in my mind where I wanted to go for these players and I know it would be a great first class event so it should be fun,” he said, “We want to get up have a normal routine in the morning, practice, have lunch and then we’ll give them some downtime, have a few events at night and we want to enjoy it, this is historic for them, they are young guys and we want them to have a good time but at the same time we have a ball game on Friday.”
The Blazers’ were 8-4 and 6-2 in conference play. The football programme was cut in 2014, and in just three short years have returned to prominence. Due to the fundraising effort by businesses and fans in the Birmingham area, there was an announcement six months later by the university that the programme would return in 2017.
Clark said he expects a strong fan support from an eager Blazers fan base.
“It’s really been a lot of excitement and our fans really wanted to get to the game. We think we are going to have a big contingent. I know people are coming over on a cruise and our fans really turn out. We led our conference in attendance by 5000 or 6000. We should have a really good crowd of supporters, it’s not a long flight for us so the presence of UAB supporters should be strong here,” he said.
Slated for 12:30 pm, the game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the Bahamas Bowl Radio Network in the first matchup between the two programmes.
Ticket sales for the 2017 Bahamas Bowl are on sale at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium box office and online at NSA-Bahamas.com.
Prices start at $10 for general admission and range from $10-$30. For more information, call the National Stadium Box Office at 325-0376.
The 2017 gameday entertainment includes a pregame performance by the Bahamas All-Star Band, a halftime performance by the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band and Junkanoo groups will perform during the break between the first and second quarters as well as the break between the third and fourth quarters.
For the second straight year, the game date falls at the start of a long holiday weekend in the Bahamas, allowing for an early Friday afternoon game.
Crowds of over 13,000 each year in Nassau have watched the only current bowl game played outside of the United States. The inaugural game in 2014 saw WKU beat Central Michigan 49-48 in a memorable offensive shootout. In 2015, Western Michigan beat Middle Tennessee 45-31 and last year, Old Dominion held off Eastern Michigan 24-20.