After six very successful games that solidified the Bahamas Bowl as the longest-running international bowl game in college football history, and a cancelation of the 2020 game due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seventh bowl game will be played in December 2021 in Nassau’s Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Proving the slogan “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 world’s most beautiful tourist destinations.
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. Bahamians of all ages come out to the National Stadium to experience gameday the way it happens in U.S. college stadiums each week during the season.
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.
The gameday action takes place at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, where fans have watched some of the most-exciting contests among the bowls each year. The stadium received a major upgrade in November 2016 as the National Stadium Authority-Bahamas installed a Celebration Bermudagrass field. The facility also has gone through other upgrades each year, including a new high-definition video board prior to the 2018 game.
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, and Western Michigan participated in a New Year’s Six bowl after an undefeated season in 2016. UAB, the Bahamas Bowl runner-up in 2017, won the Conference USA title in 2018.
A total of 27 alumni who have participated in the bowl have heard their names called by teams during the 2015-20 NFL Drafts, led by Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis, who was selected No. 5 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2017 draft. Five former student-athletes who played in the Bahamas Bowl were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, while a bowl-record total of seven student-athletes were taken in 2016. A total of 32 Bahamas Bowl alumni have played in at least one game in the National Football League through the end of the 2019 season, including 10 undrafted players.
The bowl has had one conference coach of the year and three freshman of the year award winners participate in the game.
The 2019 game featured Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference against Charlotte of Conference USA.
Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson rushed a bowl-record 32 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns to help secure the program’s first-ever bowl victory, as the Bulls defeated Charlotte 31-9.
Patterson was selected as the Offensive Player of the Game and punctuated the victory with his second touchdown run with 1:43 left in the contest. The Bulls’ final drive went for 16 plays and spanned 9:07. Patterson accounted for 81 rushing yards on 13 attempts during the drive, as he was handed the ball on the first nine plays of the possession to ice the game.
Buffalo defensive end Malcolm Koonce was awarded Defensive Player of the Game honors thanks to his five tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. Koonce’s strip sack of Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds was recovered by the Bulls’ Ledarius Mack with six seconds remaining in the second quarter and helped the Bulls preserve a 17-0 lead heading into halftime.
Aside from Patterson’s performance on the ground, both defenses turned in solid performances. Buffalo (8-5) held a slight 282 to 278 advantage over Charlotte (7-6) in total offense.
Charlotte defensive end Markees Watts led all players with 11 tackles, while safety Marquavis Gibbs tallied an interception for the 49ers. Buffalo linebacker James Patterson (Jaret’s twin brother) also had an interception for the Bulls.
Antonio Nunn led the Bulls with five catches for 53 yards and a score, while Charlotte’s Tyler Ringwood had five receptions for 64 yards.
Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold raised the Prime Minister’s Trophy after the game as the bowl champions, the first bowl victory in the school’s history.
Fans at the game were treated to alumni parties outside the National Stadium, a pregame performance by the famed Bahamas All-Stars band and a Junkanoo performance during the game.
The game was broadcast on television on ESPN for the sixth-consecutive year as Steve Levy, 2010 BCS National Championship-winning quarterback Greg McElroy and sideline reporter Dianna Russini described the action, and the bowl action was heard in the U.S. from Kyle Wiggs and Rob Best on the Bahamas Bowl Radio Network.
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 evening 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 Buffalo and Charlotte 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 Clinic conducted by USA Football, the Commonwealth of American Football League (CAFL) and the bowl. The large contingent of student-athletes from both schools brought smiles to the Bahamian youth at both events.
“Oh, you can bring us back every year if you like,” Leipold said. “In all seriousness, we really want to thank the people of the Bahamas, and everybody who helps put this game on. It’s a special experience, win or lose. It’s a special experience. The friendliness and the hospitality have been outstanding, and if we’re ever in position to be chosen again, we’ll gladly accept and try to get back here again.”
“First off, I don’t know how you ever top this trip,” said Charlotte head coach Will Healy. “To think about it from our perspective, your first ever bowl game, having the opportunity to go to the Bahamas and spend five days at Atlantis, it’s been everything I could hope it would be and more. Just to be able to walk around our hotel and see the smiles on these guys’ faces, to watch them enjoy what this bowl game has to offer, it’s a first-class event. We’ve had a blast. The whole experience has been amazing. I want to thank everybody here for the hospitality we’ve seen in the Bahamas. Atlantis has been incredible.”
The economic impact of the bowl came to the Bahamas in travel, shipping, hotels, food, supplies, advertising, entertainment and local transportation. Several local Nassau businesses worked with the bowl and supplied product, supplies, equipment and services. The bowl will continue to visit the Ranfurly Homes, conduct the Youth Football 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 the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Atlantis Bahamas. Local Bahamian sponsors Tribune Media, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, BahamasLocal.com, Caribbean Bottling Company Bahamas (Coca-Cola) and Bud Light Caribbean, join numerous Nassau businesses in making the bowl a success.
The support of the Bahamas Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the National Sports Authority-Bahamas and their staffs are crucial to the bowl’s efforts. Transportation partners Bahamas Experience, Leisure Travel and Tours and Majestic Travel along with the Lynden Pindling International Airport, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) staffs make sure the teams, staffs, VIPs and fans get into, around New Providence Island and back home during bowl week with ease. And fans used TeamIP to get their bowl and team merchandise at the Atlantis, on gameday and online.
For the 2021 game as with the previous six, the Bahamas Bowl has Mid-American Conference and Conference USA as participating conferences in December in the Nassau stadium named for the late Bahamian Olympic track star.
The seventh game in 2021 promises to be another chapter in a rich history of Bahamas Bowl contests that have captured the imagination of Bahamians and visiting college football fans who have made their way to Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, and those watching on ESPN, to see why “Bowl Games are Better in The Bahamas”.