NASSAU, Bahamas — Buffalo and Charlotte arrived to the Atlantis Paradise Island resort on Monday afternoon to kick off the sixth year of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
First-year Charlotte head coach Will Healy is excited that his school’s first-ever bowl game is in the Bahamas.
“This is the perfect destination,” Healy said. “The first bowl game in program history, and a dream trip – trip of a lifetime. Just walking them through the entrance here and walking back to the ballroom and where we’re going to be meeting – I wish I could have seen their faces heading to the beach. It’s a special place, and I’ve been excited since I was here the last time to be able to show it off. We’re very excited to be here.”
Buffalo will be making its fourth bowl game appearance after playing in the Dollar General Bowl last season, the 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the 2008 International Bowl.
Fourth-year head coach Lance Leipold and his Bulls squad were also thrilled to be in the Bahamas.
“You could feel the energy on the bus coming here and we could feel it this morning when we met as a team back in Buffalo,” Buffalo’s fifth-year head coach Lance Leipold said. “I had a chance to be down here a week ago, seeing what it’s all about and seeing the experiences they’re going to have. I know they’re going to make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Buffalo junior defensive end Taylor Riggins was amazed at the Atlantis resort.
“It’s amazing,” Riggins said. “It’s beautiful. All the guys saw Atlantis, and everyone got riled up and excited. Everyone on the team is really excited to be here and get out of that cold weather up in Buffalo. Lately it’s been low 30s and snowing every day. To be able to get down here in the sun is really nice for us.”
All of the players and coaches know that balancing the beauty and opportunities at a resort like the Atlantis will be both enjoyable and a key to success in Friday’s game.
Sophomore receiver Victor Tucker of Charlotte is aware of that balancing act between fun and football and making history in the school’s first bowl appearance.
“It’s very exciting,” Tucker said. “That’s something that we talked about collectively as a unit, making history at the school. Why not be the first? That’s the mindset we’ve had this whole season, so we’re just keeping it going. It feels great because at first we didn’t see the results that we wanted to see at the beginning of the season. To stay the course, to stay persistent and to see it pay off at the end of the year by being rewarded with a great trip like this is fulfilling.”
While each team is excited to be in the Bahamas, the primary focus remains Friday’s game, which is set to kick off at 2 pm at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Teams enjoy Junkanoo and pinball at welcome party
Buffalo and Charlotte capped off the first day with a welcome party in the lobby of the Royal Tower at the Atlantis Hotel, complete with a Junkanoo performance, delicious food and a pinball tournament.
Following Junkanoo and dinner, four players from both Buffalo and Charlotte competed in a pinball tournament sponsored by Stern Pinball – a local company to Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Buffalo linebacker Max Michel was crowned champion of the eight-man competition, earning the Bulls one of the pinball machines to put in their locker room back home.
Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson was also in attendance to emcee the pinball tournament, also awarding one of the pinball machines to runner-up Charlotte after the event.