Dec. 21, 2006
With two conference championship contenders facing off, a primetime spot on ESPN and a location in the birthplace of Mardi Gras, the Eighth Annual GMAC Bowl promises to be exciting, invigorating, fun and full of good old southern hospitality.
Since its start in 1999, the GMAC Bowl has become an integral part of the sports culture in Mobile, Ala. With an array of activities that include food, community service, a parade and even bowling, the six-day event represents the unique history of its location.
"Mobile has such a unique cultural blend," Stacy Hammac, Director of Marketing and Media Relations for the GMAC Bowl said. "The setting down here is good. You get the southern hospitality, the sense of Mardi Gras and a feeling of a big city atmosphere and excitement all in a small town setting."
Mobile, one of the oldest port cities in the United States, is 300 years old and includes a mixture of Spanish, French, African and Creole heritages. It is minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico and is where Mardi Gras was first held in 1704, 62 years before New Orleans adopted the festival.
Mobile's cultural richness is captured in the overall experience of the GMAC Bowl, including a Mardi Gras parade and a tour of the USS Alabama battleship which was commissioned in 1942 and received numerous citations for its service in the Pacific during World War II. Guests will be able to sample southern cuisine and hospitality in a welcoming reception, a luncheon, a breakfast and the mayor's banquet. The spouses of coaches and staff are even entertained with an outing, which includes a short driving tour of historic downtown Mobile and a visit to the newly-renovated Mobile Carnival Museum.
"The first thing that happens the very evening the players get here is a welcoming reception," Hammac said. "It's not a reception in the typical sense - it's a southern style shrimp bowl. They get seafood and a true Mobile take on how we do a reception. Everyone sits around and talks to everybody. It's done at the stadium and there's nothing formal about it at all. It's truly welcoming."
Over the next few days the players will do community service by visiting the USA Children's and Women's Hospital and get a Mobile history lesson with a tour of the USS Alabama battleship. The trip to the battleship museum includes a luncheon where bowl sponsors, city officials and local media will be able to meet with each team. The competition gets started earlier in the week when the two teams square off in a bowling exhibition.
"They'll see the USS Alabama, which is a battleship that is a big part of our history," Hammac said. "They'll get to see some fun parts of the city and the night before the game when they have the prep rally, they're treated to a Mardi Gras parade. Mardi Gras was actually founded in Mobile and it is the largest Mardi Gras parade of the year. There will be more than 50,000 people in Mobile who will come out to celebrate the teams being here."
The festivities will conclude with the actual bowl game on Sunday. The GMAC Bowl, which has previously been the first bowl of the season, is now the last game of prior to the BCS national championship game.
"When we started this bowl several years ago, we really wanted to be the first bowl game of the season," Hammac said. "That added something to a new bowl coming out of the gates, and we were able to sort of capitalize on the hype of bowl season excitement. Now with it being the eighth annual bowl, we moved the date to the last bowl of the season before the BCS championship. We're able to once again capitalize on all the excitement leading up to that national championship. It's moving from one end of the spectrum to the other."
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. on Jan. 7 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. For ticket and travel information, call the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-575-CATS or visit the GMAC Bowl Central.