THE GAME

About The Bahamas Bowl

After three bowls that have served as a springboard to success for those teams and student-athletes participating, the fourth-annual Bahamas Bowl will kick off at 12:30 pm on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 at Nassau’s Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

Proving the slogan that “Bowl Games are Better in the Bahamas,” bowl week in Nassau always lives up to that with a mix of sun, sand and football in one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world.

The Bahamas Bowl was enhanced after ESPN Events added the game to an impressive stable of events in May 2015. And, with ESPN on board, the bowl week always provides student-athletes, conference partners, alumni, fans and sponsors a first-class international bowl experience.

A large part of the Bahamas Bowl’s success is the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Using the local slogan “Football, Family and Fun”, Bahamians of all ages come out to Robinson National Stadium to experience gameday the way it is done in at college stadiums in the U.S.

The Atlantis Bahamas is another important element to the bowl experience, as it houses both teams for four nights at its world-class resort and water park on Paradise Island.

Robinson National Stadium received a major upgrade as the National Stadium Authority-Bahamas installed a Celebration Bermudagrass field in November 2016, along with other improvements to the facility.

There has been plenty of success on the field for all of the participating teams. Both of the first two winners of the bowl — WKU in 2014 and Western Michigan in 2015 — went on to win their respective conference titles the following season. The Hilltoppers captured Conference USA in 2015 and 2016, while the Broncos won the MAC title in 2016 and played in a New Year’s Six bowl after an undefeated 13-0 regular season.

Fourteen student-athletes who have participated in the bowl have heard their names called by teams during the 2015-17 NFL Drafts, led by Western Michigan WR Corey Davis, who was selected No. 5 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2017 NFL Draft. Davis set a bowl record with 188 receiving yards in the 2015 game. A bowl-record total of seven student-athletes who played in the Bahamas were taken in the 2016 NFL Draft.

The 2016 game featured Old Dominion of Conference USA and Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference in the only current international bowl game. The combined 16 victories between ODU and EMU coming into the game was the most in the history of the bowl.

A crowd of 13,422 in Robinson National Stadium and those watching on ESPN saw another exciting Popeyes Bahamas Bowl as Old Dominion beat Eastern Michigan 24-20 for the Monarchs’ first-ever bowl victory.

Led by Offensive Player of the Game running back Ray Lawry and his 133 rushing yards, the Monarchs (10-3) left the Bahamas with a six-game win streak and their first bowl trophy. Quarterback David Washington added 188 passing yards and three touchdowns for ODU.

Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback did all he could to keep the Eagles (7-6) in the game, throwing for 300 yards and two second-half touchdowns.

ODU senior linebacker TJ Ricks was named Defensive Player of the Game after finishing with nine tackles, including one for a loss.

The bowl was honored as Prime Minister of the Bahamas Perry Christie gave out the newly-renamed Prime Minister’s Trophy to ODU.

Fans at the game were treated to a pregame FanFest featuring several interactive elements around Robinson National Stadium, a pregame performance by the famed Bahamas All-Stars band and a halftime Junkanoo joint performance from the Valley Boys and the Saxons.

The game capped off a tremendous bowl week for everyone involved, who all enjoyed the famous hospitality that the Bahamas offers to visitors.

A welcome party at the Atlantis after the teams’ arrivals gave the student-athletes, team travel parties and VIPs a taste of the Bahamas. The student-athletes attended a beach bash the next night at Atlantis and had a chance to enjoy food, fun and fellowship on the beach with spectacular views of the Caribbean and the striking Atlantis resort.

One of the highlights of bowl week was when the student-athletes from Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion helped fulfill the mission statement of the bowl as they gave back to the youth of the Bahamas by way of a visit to the Ranfurly Homes for Children in Nassau and a Youth Football Leadership Clinic conducted by USA Football and the bowl. The large contingent of student-athletes from both schools brought smiles to the Bahamian youth at both events.

“We could not be more excited and I absolutely agree: Bowl games are better in the Bahamas, said ODU head coach Bobby Wilder the day before the game. “We have had a life-changing experience from the moment we arrived on Monday, when the plane was getting ready to touch down and everyone had their window (shade) open, taking pictures of the beautiful water; how friendly and welcoming everybody was at the airport to the time we arrived at Atlantis. It’s all just been a dream come true and we’ve made lifetime memories that we will never forget.”

“The hospitality, and the first-class nature with which we’ve been treated – I said it the other day, ‘We’ve been treated like kings,'” said Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton. “At Eastern Michigan, we haven’t experienced that before. It’s truly been a blessing; it’s been an honor.”

The economic impact of the Bahamas Bowl was once again significant in 2016 as the bowl, ESPN Events, Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion and sponsors spent nearly $2 million in traveling to and during their stay in the Bahamas. Significant money was spent in travel, shipping, hotel, food, supplies, advertising, entertainment and local transportation. Several local Nassau businesses worked with the bowl and supplied product, supplies, equipment and services. In the future, the bowl will continue to visit the Ranfurly Homes, conduct the Youth Football Leadership Clinic and engage the Bahamas All-Stars band and Junkanoo groups.

Valued support for the Bahamas Bowl comes from a diverse group of sponsors, especially Atlantis and Caribbean Bottling Company Bahamas (Coca-Cola). Local Bahamas sponsors Bristol Cellar, Burns House and the The Tribune join numerous Nassau businesses in making the bowl a success each year. The Bahamas Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the National Sports Authority and their staffs help prepare Robinson National Stadium for the game, and transportation partners Bahamas Experience, Leisure Travel and Tours and Majestic Travel make sure the teams, staffs, VIPs and fans get around New Providence Island to the many bowl events with ease.

The Bahamas Bowl Advisory Committee, made up of Bahamian business leaders, works with the bowl staff year-round to help promote the game and lend assistance where needed.

For the 2017 game, the Bahamas Bowl has Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference as participating conferences in the Nassau stadium named for the late Bahamian Olympic track star on December 22.

If the first three games, which had a combined 217 points and 29 touchdowns scored, are any indication, fans in the Bahamas will be treated once again to exciting high-flying football, and everyone watching on ESPN will experience the wonder and beauty of the Bahamas.

HISTORY OF THE POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL

BAHAMAS BOWL ANNOUNCED – OCTOBER 14, 2013

From left: Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky, MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, NSA-Bahamas Deputy Chairman Anton Sealey, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Harrison Thompson, Bahamas Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson, Bahamas Bowl founder/Complete Sports Management President Lea Miller, Atlantis President & Managing Director George Markantonis, Ministry of Tourism Marketing Executive Jeff Rodgers, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson and Ministry of Tourism Sports Tourism Director Greg Rolle after the press conference announcing the creation of the Bahamas Bowl – October 14, 2013.

The bowl was announced in Nassau as commissioners from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference along with a representative of the American Athletic Conference were on hand for the official announcement with the Bahamas Minister of Tourism Obe Wilchcombe and bowl founder Lea Miller at Atlantis – Paradise Island.

“As we have learned with our other bowls, student-athletes, coaches and fans get excited about a great destination. It’s hard to imagine a better destination than this wonderful country for a bowl game,” Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said. “We are thankful for the support of The Bahamas Minister of Tourism and Lea Miller in providing not only a great venue, but a fantastic opportunity to showcase the hard work and dedication of our teams.”

“The Mid-American Conference is proud to partner in the creation of the Bahamas Bowl beginning with the 2014 season and to feature the only bowl game outside of the United States,” said Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Mid-American Conference Commissioner. “This will truly be a one-of-its-kind bowl experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans. The Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium will be a wonderful host venue, and the accommodations with the Atlantis Resort will certainly be a destination to reward our football programs.”

“The Bahamas Bowl is an innovative event under excellent and experienced management that will be an immediate success and will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our student-athletes,” American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco stated. “We know that our fans will enjoy following their teams to one of the most popular travel destinations in the world and will enjoy watching them, along with a national television audience, in a high-quality game in a state-of-the-art stadium.”

The game was founded by Miller, president of Complete Sports Management, which operated the 2014 game under the auspices of Bahamas Bowl, LLC, a subsidiary of Conference USA.

Richard Giannini, a former athletic director at Southern Miss who founded the Blockbuster Bowl in Miami/Fort Lauderdale in 1990, advised both the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl and Boca Raton Bowl in their inaugural year and served three terms on the NCAA Postseason Football Committee, is the bowl’s Executive Director.

BAHAMAS BOWL CERTIFIED – MAY 1, 2014

The NCAA certified the Bahamas Bowl as part of five new bowl games to begin play after the 2014 regular season.

POPEYES SIGNS AS TITLE SPONSOR – AUGUST 26, 2014

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen was announced as the title sponsor of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.

“Popeyes is honored to partner with the Bahamas Bowl to bring this historic bowl game to college football fans everywhere,” said Hector Muñoz, Vice President of Marketing for Popeyes. “Like college football, Popeyes enjoys a rich tradition and passionate fans, and we look forward to a great game and a lot of fun in the Bahamas.”

The historic announcement marks the first time Popeyes has sponsored a college football bowl game.

2014 POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL – DECEMBER 24, 2014

The 2014 inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl featured Western Kentucky of Conference USA against Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference in the first FBS-level bowl game outside of the United States or Canada since 1937.

A crowd of 13,422 in Robinson National Stadium and those watching on ESPN witnessed the Hilltoppers hold on for a 49-48 victory over the Chippewas in one of the most memorable bowl games of the 2014 season.

WKU built a 49-14 lead after three quarters, but CMU rallied with a 34-point fourth quarter, including a last-gasp, 75-yard, three-lateral pass play that resulted in a touchdown as time expired — a sequence that was named the top play of the 2014 bowl season by ESPN’s SportsCenter. A 2-point conversion pass by the Chippewas that would have won the game was broken up in the back of the end zone. The final series of plays captured the imagination of college football fans who saw countless replays on national and local TV and shared the crazy ending through social media outlets.

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty was the Offensive Player of the Game after completing 31 of 42 passes for 486 yards and five touchdowns. Hilltopper defensive end Derik Overstreet was the Defensive Player of the Game after he had five tackles, which included two sacks.

Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush threw for 493 yards and a FBS-bowl-record seven TDs in defeat, including the game’s final thrilling TD.

The teams set FBS bowl records for most combined passing touchdowns (12) and combined passing yards (971).

ESPN EVENTS TAKES OVER OWNERSHIP – MAY 12, 2015

ESPN Events announced the acquisition of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl from Bahamas Bowl, LLC, which owned the inaugural game in 2014. The addition of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl makes the game a part of an impressive stable of events in football and basketball for ESPN Events.

“We are excited to be adding the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl to our portfolio of events,” said Pete Derzis, senior vice president, ESPN Events. “The inaugural game was a tremendous success, and we hope to build on that by bringing a one-of-a-kind bowl experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans. The level of support from the entire country of the Bahamas makes this event truly unique — making this game a true destination event that fans across the country will want to attend and support.”

POPEYES SIGNS MULTIYEAR EXTENSION AS TITLE SPONSOR – JUNE 9, 2015

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen extended its title sponsorship in a multiyear deal with the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.

“This news signifies the reach and power of the Popeyes brand,” said Hector Muñoz, Chief Marketing Officer – U.S. for Popeyes. “We have established a new tradition with the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl that will allow us to connect with fans in a forum they love — college football. Big brands do big things and we cannot think of a better demonstration of Popeyes growth and success.”

FINAL TD OF 2014 POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL REACHES FINALS OF ESPY VOTING – JULY 8, 2015

The improbable finish of the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl in which Central Michigan scored a 75-yard, three-lateral touchdown as time expired advanced to the Finals for the 2015 ESPY Best Play award.

CMU’s touchdown, the No. 2 seed in the 16-play bracket, received 69 percent of the online vote to defeat No. 15 seed Dwayne Bravo of the West Indies cricket team in the first round and 60 percent of the online vote to defeat No. 7 seed Tyler Ennis of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres in the Round of 8 to move on to the final fan vote.

The Central Michigan players involved in the touchdown were guests of ESPN at the 2015 ESPYS Presented by Capital One from Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on July 15.

2015 POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL – DECEMBER 24, 2015

The 2015 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl featured Western Michigan of the Mid-American Conference against Middle Tennessee of Conference USA.

A crowd of 13,123 in Robinson National Stadium and the TV audience on ESPN saw Broncos pull away in the fourth quarter for a 45-31 victory over the Blue Raiders — the first-ever bowl victory for Western Michigan.

WMU’s Jamauri Bogan ran 19 times for a career-high 215 yards and four touchdowns to power the Broncos to victory. Just like the previous year, the contest between Western Michigan and Middle Tennessee was one big play after another as the two teams combined for 1,055 yards of total offense and seven scoring plays of 29 or more yards.

Bogan was named the Offensive Player of the Game of the game for his efforts, while WMU linebacker Grant DePalma was named the game’s Defensive Player of the Game. DePalma led all tacklers with 12 stops (five solo) and a tackle for loss.

WMU quarterback Zach Terrell was 18-of-26 passing for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Corey Davis caught eight balls for 183 yards and a TD.

Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill had a solid day for Middle Tennessee, completing 26-of-39 passes for 327 yards and three scores to lead the Blue Raider offense.

2016 POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL – DECEMBER 23, 2016

The 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl featured Old Dominion of Conference USA against Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference.

A crowd of 13,422 in Robinson National Stadium and those watching on ESPN saw another exciting Popeyes Bahamas Bowl as Old Dominion beat Eastern Michigan 24-20 for the Monarchs’ first-ever bowl victory.

Led by Offensive Player of the Game running back Ray Lawry and his 133 rushing yards, the Monarchs (10-3) left the Bahamas with a six-game win streak and their first bowl trophy. Quarterback David Washington added 188 passing yards and three touchdowns for ODU.

Eastern Michigan quarterback Brogan Roback did all he could to keep the Eagles (7-6) in the game, throwing for 300 yards and two second-half touchdowns, but it was not enough to help EMU to a title in their first bowl game in 29 years.

ODU senior linebacker TJ Ricks was named Defensive Player of the Game after finishing with nine tackles, including one for a loss.

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