The city of Mobile has been fortunate to host a postseason college football game since December 22, 1999, when Texas Christian and East Carolina clashed. Fans have had the opportunity to watch some exciting action while also getting a glance at future NFL stars such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Ben Roethlisberger.
Originally known as the Mobile Alabama Bowl, it has had numerous sponsors. Starting with the GMAC Bowl, it has transitioned to the GoDaddy.com Bowl, the Dollar General Bowl and eventually, last year, to the LendingTree Bowl.
The matching of squads has also changed over the years. The bowl has had league tie-ins with the Mid-American Conference (MAC), Conference USA (C-USA), Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and even the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Since 2010, it has remained consistent with a MAC team heading south each winter to take on a Sun Belt Conference (SBC) representative.
That could all change this season. The Sun Belt and ESPN Events have entered into an agreement with the LendingTree Bowl that runs through the 2025 campaign. While SBC will provide an anchor team each year, ESPN Events will now select the opponent.
The matchup will feature an opponent from SBC playing a team from MAC, C-USA or another qualifying team for the ESPN Events selection.
“The Sun Belt has been a great partner since 2010 and we are very happy the relationship will continue,” LendingTree Bowl President Jerry Silverstein said. “We are excited about the new opportunity the new rotation agreement brings to the city of Mobile and the game while continuing with the brand of football fans have come to expect from the LendingTree Bowl.”
The new pact will start with the 22nd annual LendingTree Bowl game. The game date has yet to be announced. ESPN will broadcast the game nationally.
There has also not been a decision on whether the bowl game will continue at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The 70-year-old facility has seen both the Senior Bowl and the University of South Alabama announce moves to the on-campus Hancock Whitney Stadium, which will open this fall in West Mobile.
“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sun Belt football this season, we are pleased to continue our partnership with the LendingTree Bowl,” Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill said. “We are coming off of our most successful season in Sun Belt history and we’re excited to have this bowl opportunity for our fans and programs.”
Marshall University of C-USA played in the third and fourth bowl games in Mobile. Other league members include the University of Southern Mississippi and The University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the LendingTree Bowl in future years,” C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said. “The bowl fits well in our conference’s geographic footprint and it will be great to re-engage with the community as we have a history of playing in Mobile.”
Louisiana-Lafayette beat Miami of Ohio 27-17 in the most recent LendingTree Bowl. Five of those bowl participants were taken in the NFL Draft.
Louisiana offensive lineman Robert Hunt was selected in the second round (39th overall) by the Miami Dolphins; Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither was picked in the fourth round (107th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals; Louisiana offensive lineman Kevin Dotson was drafted in the fourth round (135th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers; Louisiana running back Raymond Calais was taken in the seventh round (245th overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and Miami of Ohio kicker Sam Sloman was selected in the seventh round (248th overall) by the Los Angeles Rams.
For more information about the LendingTree Bowl and other bowl week events, visit lendingtreebowl.com.
* Noah Whittington from the University of Mobile (UM) men’s golf program has been named the 2019-20 Musco Lighting Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC).
On the President’s List in the fall and spring, Whittington posted a 3.96 GPA this year and graduated May 9 with a mathematics degree. SSAC will nominate Whittington for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
“Noah has been such a pleasure to have on the team,” said TJ Jackson, who coaches the men’s and women’s golf teams at UM. “With Noah being a senior this year, I frequently bounced ideas and plans off of him and respected and relied on his opinions. He is the epitome of what it means to be a student-athlete, not just by balancing the two obvious aspects, but he also interned during the summers and during this year.
“He also helped teach freshman seminar classes and worked as a tutor on campus. He accomplished all of this while maintaining an All-Conference golf game, only missing one tournament in his four years due to a mission trip during his freshman year.”
* Richie Riley, the University of South Alabama (USA) head men’s basketball coach, was recognized by ESPN.com as one of the top young coaches in the country when he was included on the organization’s “40 Under 40” list.
Riley was No. 16 on the list. It was comprised of the top 40 head and assistant coaches in college basketball who were under 40 as of April 30. The final list — which attempts to rank coaches according to both achievements and potential — features a diverse collection of elite young coaches from all 32 NCAA Division I conferences.
He guided South to a 20-11 overall mark during the 2019-20 campaign, the first time the program has recorded 20 wins since 2008-09. The Jags ended the regular season with eight straight victories, which was the team’s longest win streak entering postseason play dating back to the winter of 1980. USA finished 13-7 in the Sun Belt Conference, securing the No. 2 seed at the league tournament; but that was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic before the Jaguars could play a game in the event.
Riley has a 37-28 record in two seasons leading the Jags and an overall mark of 72-56 in four years as a head coach. He was a finalist for the Ben Jobe Award — presented annually to the top NCAA Division I minority coach by CollegeInsider.com — at the end of the 2019-20 campaign, while during the regular season he was selected the HoopDirt.com National Coach of the Week after helping South to a pair of victories over Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.
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