“Cheering, lots and lots of dancing and cheering!” According to head coaches Doc Holliday (Marshall) and Mario Cristobal (FIU) during the 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg Contract Signing Press Conference, this is how each respective team responded when receiving the news that they had been formally selected for the 2011 Bowl.
Can you blame them?
This Bowl game is a remarkably perfect fit for both universities, but most importantly, for the fan bases of the Thundering Herd and the Panthers. Not only will this match-up give Marshall fans an excuse to swap their parkas and winter coats in return for flip-flops and speedo..er..bathing suits, but it will allow the social media frenzied Panther fans to prove it’s young fan base as well.
FIU’s Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment, Pete Garcia, told me he’s expecting a record turnout from his young fan base, a large contingent that’s been dying to show the state of Florida that they mean business and are willing to travel to see their team play in a Bowl. “Playing in Detroit last year didn’t give us an ample opportunity to showcase how well our fans are willing to travel for a Bowl game, ” Garcia mentioned. “This year, we’re expecting our fans to show up in droves for the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl here in St. Petersburg.” I can’t say I doubt Garcia either, having talked to several Panther fanatics via Twitter and listening to raving fans tell me they’ll be taking buses, carpooling, and one even telling me he’ll be hauling down from Tennessee! Now that’s dedication, Holmes!
“We’ve said it since the end of our regular season, this is the Bowl our team and fan base have been wanting to go to all along,” stated FIU head coach Mario Cristobal, a Miami native. “This gives us the opportunity to showcase our team here in our home state while allowing fans an easily accessible destination to travel to.” You can’t blame Cristobal, a coach who saw his team playing in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl last season in Detroit, some thousand miles away from home. Bet they got free Crazy Bread though, nom nom nom.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Marshall’s Athletic Director Mike Hamrick exclaimed how delighted he was going to be digging through his closet at home in search of his swimming trunks, in the middle of December nonetheless. “I can’t tell you how excited we are to spend a week on the beaches, while enjoying sunshine, and of course, the football game. I fully expect Marshall fans to be herding down to St. Petersburg for this game.” Herding down (get it?) is right. A simple Google search revealed that highs in Huntington, WV for next weekend will be topping out around 43 degrees with rain storms and cloudy skies to follow. Now if I were a Marshall fan and saw that dreadful forecast, I’d grab my wife, kids, neighbors, mailman…WHOEVER, and forge this trip down south, no questions asked. That’s just me though - maybe West Virginians like that bitter, lip-chapping cold up north.
Both head coaches talked about the importance of playing in the state of Florida, a recruiting hot bed, citing how vital it was in their efforts to have this game nationally broadcast on ESPN not only for Florida, but for the nation to see. “My coaches and I actively recruit the state of Florida, evident by the 30 or so players we have on our roster from this state alone” said Holliday, a former Associate head coach with the Florid Gators in ’06 when they won the National title. With both Cristobal and Holliday fighting to claim their territory in the state, there’s no question that the results of this game will have huge recruiting implications for both the FIU and Marshall programs in the upcoming off-season.
Marshall’s Athletic Director Mike Hamrick urged all members in attendance to watch the movie “We Are Marshall” some time before the Bowl game. This horrific true story depicts the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash, which killed thirty-seven players on the Thundering Herd team, as well as five coaches and two athletic trainers associated with the team. Through all the devastation and turmoil, Marshall rose from the ashes and rebuilt their program, becoming the winningest college football team throughout the 1990’s. I personally own the movie and have seen it many times, bringing a tear to my eye (only real men cry) every time I watch it. I ask you all… Panther fans, Herd fans, college football fans, or just any individual who wants to be inspired by how this storied program had the courage to rebuild after such devastation, to take the time to watch this movie before the Bowl game on December 20th. It will have you realize that, when all is said and done, there are so many things in life that are more important than the game of football.
Now to briefly touch on my experience at this event! Picture a kid in a candy shop for the first time, seeing all the delectable treats lining the walls, with free roam to choose whatever chocolates, jaw-breakers, and malted milk balls he so chooses. Now picture me, a 22 year-old young man (kid) who’s had a passion for sports all my life, being in a room with coaches, public figures, and sports icons only shown to me through the lens of a camera on the television.
Without having any experience in front of a microphone before to my audition, I was slightly nervous and jittery, to say the least, to begin my interviewing up on the podium. After my first interview with FIU’s Cristobal, I felt much more comfortable as the interviews progressed, to the point where I felt like I had been doing it for years. The signing party itself was a first-class event, filled with finger foods, beverages (Doc Holliday is in fact a Coca-Cola guy), and mingling between media members, bowl board representatives, and officials from both FIU and Marshall. I still can’t get over the fact that I’m living this childhood dream of mine, and I’m almost certain I pinched myself at least twice throughout the event last night. It was an absolute blast!
Thanks for reading guys and girls! Remember to follow me on Twitter so we can discuss the upcoming Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg on December 20th. Until then this is Kevin Keane…OUT.
- Bowl Events You Don’t Want To Miss!
- My Life & Times with Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl
- Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl Recap of Fun!
- Meet the Winner of the 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl Talent Tryouts!
- The Bowl After-Effects