By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE matchup is now set for the fourth edition of the Bahamas Bowl and fanbases are already galvanizing support for the highly anticipated holiday season contest.
The University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers will represent Conference USA and face off against the University of Ohio Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference in the Friday, December 22 bowl at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Slated for 12:30 pm, the game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the Bahamas Bowl Radio Network in the first matchup between the two programmes.
Both teams accepted early bids following the competion of “rivalry week” after they each finished the regular season at 8-4. Their 16 combined victories are tied for the most in Bahamas Bowl history with last year’s matchup between Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion.
The Blazers’ were 8-4 and 6-2 in conference play. The football programme was cut in 2014, and in just three short years have returned to prominence. Due to fundraising effort by businesses and fans in the Birmingham area there was an announcement six months later by the university that the program would return in 2017.
Head coach Bill Clark is in his second season with the programme.
“The amount of work our coaches and players have put in over the last two years has been incredible, and we are thrilled to play in the Bahamas Bowl,” said Clark. “Ohio is a very solid team led by an outstanding coach in Frank Solich, and it is going to be a great game. Our players will be ready for the challenge and look to become the first team to win a bowl game at UAB.”
The Blazers come into the Bahamas Bowl with six victories in their last eight games to finish second in Conference USA’s West Division. The Blazers average 29.6 points per game, and UAB has scored 30 or more points six times.
“We are honored to accept an invitation to play in this year’s Bahamas Bowl against such a great opponent as Ohio,” said UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram. “Our coaches and players have represented our university extremely well throughout the entire season, and this is a tremendous reward for their hard work. We look forward to playing another nationally televised game and watching this remarkable team cap off their season with one more game.”
Ohio also went 8-4 but also went 5-3 in the Mid American Conference play will be led to its’ 11th all-time bowl appearance by head coach Frank Solich, who is in his 13th season at Ohio. He has taken the Bobcats to nine bowls, including in each of the last three seasons. He is the third-longest tenured coach in the FBS ranks.
“We are excited to accept an invitation for the 2017 Bahamas Bowl. It’s a location that our players, staff and fans are excited about,” said Solich. “We are looking forward to a great game against a talented UAB team.”
The Bobcats come into the Bahamas Bowl with four victories in the last six games as Ohio finished second in the MAC East Division. On defense, the Bobcats have held opponents to 25.8 points per game.
“We are honored and excited about being invited to the Bahamas Bowl. It is a fantastic location and event for our team and fans,” said Ohio Director of Athletics Jim Schaus. “All of the past MAC schools who have attended rave about their experience.”
Ticket sales for the 2017 Bahamas Bowl went on sale at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium box office and online at NSA-Bahamas.com on November 1.
Prices start at $10 for general admission and range from $10-$30.
Tickets can be purchased in-person at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium Box Office or via the National Stadium Authority-Bahamas website at NSA-Bahamas.com. For more information, call the National Stadium Box Office at 325-0376.
The 2017 gameday entertainment includes a pregame performance by the Bahamas All-Star Band, a halftime performance by the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band, and Junkanoo groups will perform during the break between the first and second quarters as well as the break between the third and fourth quarters.
For the second straight year, the game date falls at the start of a long holiday weekend in the Bahamas, allowing for an early Friday afternoon game.
Crowds of over 13,000 each year in Nassau have watched the only current bowl game played outside of the United States. The inaugural game in 2014 saw WKU beat Central Michigan 49-48 in a memorable offensive shootout. In 2015, Western Michigan beat Middle Tennessee 45-31 and last year, Old Dominion held off Eastern Michigan 24-20.