GoDaddy Bowl officials recently announced a change in the date of the annual game at Mobile’s Ladd Peebles Stadium. The announcement came as no surprise. A change was expected once the new College Football Playoff was put into place last season, a move that adjusted the playing dates of some of college football’s biggest bowl games.
In truth, it’s a return to the GoDaddy Bowl’s roots. When the game was first played, beginning in 1999, it was a mid-to-late December game. It will be again this season, moving from Sunday, Jan. 5, last season to Wednesday, Dec. 23, this season. It will mark the first time in the bowl’s history two games are played in the same calendar year. When the game was switched from a December game to a January game, there was no game played in the 2006 calendar year.
“We knew this was coming,” GoDaddy Bowl President Jerry Silverstein said. “With the College Football Playoff and the separation that the Power Five [conferences] wanted between the last bowl game and the [national championship] game, where the calendar falls, it was going to move us into December eventually. Now that the NFL is starting a little bit later this year, it made the calendar move up a little faster and our [recent] slot was not available. That moved us into December.”
The GoDaddy Bowl has been played during prime time on a Sunday in early January the past four seasons and has held a January date for the past nine seasons. The bowl had a date in recent years that usually had the game being played the night before the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game and/or on the same night as the NFL’s two divisional championship games.
A Wednesday game date is certainly nothing new for the GoDaddy Bowl, which has been played on that day of the week seven times in its history, six of those in the month of December, including the first four times the game was played and six of the first seven times it was played.
This year’s game, which matches teams from the Sun Belt Conference — of which South Alabama is a member — and the Mid-American Conference (MAC), will kick off at 7 p.m. CST and will be the only prime-time bowl game played that day. The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego will also be played on Dec. 23, with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. CST. The GoDaddy Bowl will be televised live by ESPN.
“I really don’t expect a big swing in attendance,” Silverstein said of the date change. “I think we might get more people. It’s a Wednesday night, a workday, but school will be out. Hopefully, we’ll get more local people attending the game. We’ve always had [fans who had to] work the next day, but we should be fine.
“We’re planning some more events around the game to help give a fresh look to it and what’s going on. The community has been very supportive of us and we’ve had good travel from the teams that have played here. The MAC has sent very respectable crowds to Mobile. They understand it and it’s a topic at the meetings we have [with league officials] how good a time they have here and how well they are treated. And even though [Sun Belt representative] Arkansas State has been here four years in a row, they have seemed to increase their attendance each year.”
Silverstein said the new date, while running close to Christmas, will allow those who travel to the game to return home Christmas Eve and enjoy Christmas at home.
Last season’s game found Toledo collecting a 63-44 win over Arkansas State. Toledo’s Kareem Hunt earned Most Valuable Player honors by rushing for a bowl record 275 yards and scoring five rushing touchdowns, also a bowl record.
This season’s game will be the 17th in the bowl’s history.
For further information about the GoDaddy Bowl, visit the game’s website at www.godaddybowl.com.