By RENALDO DORSETT
AS he paid a courtesy call on Rotarians, Dr Sidney McPhee, president of Middle Tennessee State University, issued a “call to action” for Bahamians to support the second edition of the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
Addressing the Rotary Club of Southeast Nassau, Dr McPhee urged all locals to fill the Thomas A Robinson Stadium at noon on December 24 as the eyes of the college football world shifts to the Bahamas.
“The first sanctioned NCAA postseason bowl game was awarded to the Bahamas last year. This is a major accomplishment. To tell you how significant this is, it normally takes ESPN about 10 years to purchase a bowl. After the first Bahamas Bowl last year, it was purchased by ESPN. It was one of the highest rated bowl games in terms of TV viewership. It was actually one of the highest rated TV bowl games in all of America. Think about it, we are talking about the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, bowls that have been around forever and the ratings for the Bahamas Bowl was in the top five for the United States of America,” he said. “What was embarrassing to me was when the cameras panned the stadium, you could find any sole in that stadium. I talked to the folks at both schools and they said they had a great time but they were very disappointed the game was not supported by the locals. Now, you have no excuse because now you have a Bahamian with his team. I have told my folks in Tennessee that I know my Bahamian friends, colleagues and associates are not going to embarrass me. I expect that stadium to be jam packed. All eyes will be looking at Nassau and the Bahamas Bowl.
McPhee was born in Mayaguana before he moved to Nassau and graduated from the former Highbury High School, now the RM Bailey Secondary School.
As the president of the largest university in the state of Tennessee for the past 15 years, McPhee said he was proud to have participated in past bowl games, but he’s even more enthusiastic about what they are bringing here with the Bahamas Bowl.
“I met with the principal of my former high school and they are going to be bringing 200-300 students from my old school RM Bailey, so I’m very pleased about that,” he said. “I hope you as Bahamians realise how significant hosting this game is. With all of the bowl games in the US and I will tell you I served on the NCAA Board of Directors and the executive committee, we have had international countries vying to get a bowl game for years.”
In his capacity as a member of the NCAA Board of Directors and the NCAA Executive Committee, McPhee was involved in the promotion of the inaugural event in 2014 and touted the game as a great opportunity for the Bahamas.
“The game has generated tremendous interest. ESPN will be doing an interview with me at halftime, and when I stand on the sideline I am hoping I see a full stadium,” he said. “ESPN has signed the contract for five years. While they had high ratings last year, if the country does not respond, I promise you there are countries around the world that want this opportunity.”
The Western Michigan Broncos will be favoured by three points over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders when the teams face off in the Thomas A Robinson Stadium on Christmas Eve.
The Blue Raiders will represent Conference USA in the bowl while Western Michigan will represent the MAC conference.
Last year, the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl locked in 11 million views on ESPN, 401 news segments and 1,587 news articles were written about the game.
Western Kentucky defeated Central Michigan - the game easily became one of the most famous NCAA football games for 2014 and was nominated for an ESPY Award.