When Murray Cape, the chairman of the GMAC Bowl selection committee, awarded the University of Toledo its invitation to the Dec. 21 game in Alabama against the University of Texas-El Paso, he told everyone in attendance at the Savage Hall press conference that, "The citizens of Mobile will welcome you with open arms and I guarantee you'll have the time of your lives."
Fun? The GMAC Bowl should be all that and more for the Rockets, whose last three bowl experiences have included bus trips to Detroit.
But it will be fun and games.
Cape warned athletic director Mike O'Brien and head football coach Tom Amstutz that the bar has been set pretty high for the Rockets.
"We've had some wonderful games," Cape said. "I told Mike and coach Amstutz that they have quite a reputation to uphold. The Mid-American Conference has never lost in the GMAC Bowl."
In an affiliation that began in 2001, ex-MAC member Marshall, Miami and Bowling Green have combined for a 4-0 record against Conference-USA opponents at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile.
Omar Jacobs of Bowling Green threw five touchdown passes last year in a 52-35 win over Memphis.
So those are the games. But the Rockets, playing in a 10th bowl game in a fifth different venue, and their fans should have plenty of fun, too, with a six-day schedule of events in Mobile leading up to kickoff against a Conference-USA representative.
FRIDAY, DEC. 16
Team welcoming reception: The Alabama Power Company will host a southern-style shrimp boil to welcome the coaches, players, official travel party, conference staffs and corporate sponsors. The invitation-only event will be held at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
SATURDAY, DEC. 17
Players' hospital visit:
Players from both teams will deliver early Christmas presents to children staying at the University of South Alabama Women's and Children's Hospital.
Coors Classic Luncheon:
Former University of Alabama head basketball coach Wimp Sanderson will be the guest speaker at the tip-off luncheon for the Coors Classic basketball doubleheader at the Mobile Marriott.
Host team South Alabama vs. Houston (5 p.m.) and Bowling Green vs. Florida State (7:30 p.m.) in a one-day event at South Alabama's 10,000-seat Mitchell Center Arena. Interested fans should contact the South Alabama ticket office at 251-460-6047.
SUNDAY, DEC. 18
A crowd of about 400, including both teams and their traveling parties, will attend a luncheon on board the USS Alabama Battleship at the Alabama Air National Guard Park. By invitation only.
Before the teams meet in a bowl game, they'll bowl. Players, cheerleaders and boosters from both schools will compete at the AMF Florida Bowl.
MONDAY, DEC. 19
Former University of Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney will speak to a crowd of between 900 and 1,000 - bowl players, coaches, corporate sponsors and local Fellowship of Christian Athletes groups - at the Cellular South-FCA Prayer Breakfast.
A limited number of tickets will be available to the public. Call the GMAC Bowl office at 251-635-0011.
Wives' Day Out:
Mobile's famous Wintzell's Oyster House will serve up local delicacies for wives of coaches and administrators in an invitation-only event that includes a tour of local landmarks and a shopping excursion.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, now a member of the FOX Sports' NFL Sunday crew, will speak to members of each participating bowl team and their fans at the official GMAC Bowl kick-off luncheon.
The event is always a sellout, so contact the GMAC Bowl office at 251-635-0011 for tickets. (They are included in the UT Alumni Association charter trip package.)
Mardi Gras Parade:
Fifteen Mardi Gras societies and the GMAC Bowl will be represented with floats as the parade rolls through a downtown Mobile route with all kinds of goodies being tossed to spectators.
The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and will include marching bands and cheerleaders from the participating schools as well as from several local high schools.
Upon conclusion of the parade, the party moves to nearby Water Street for live music from country and R&B acts.
Fireworks Show, Pep Rallies:
The sky will light up over the Mobile River as the Spectronics Fireworks Show highlights the downtown festivities and sets the tone for the pep rallies by both participating schools that will follow. More than 50,000 people are expected to attend the parade, street party, fireworks and pep rallies.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21:
Alumni Golf Tournament:
Alumni groups from the competing schools will be invited to play in a golf tournament at Magnolia Grove, part of the famous Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.
Toledo faces UTEP in the seventh annual GMAC Bowl.
The game will be televised by ESPN and broadcast nationally on the College Football Radio Network and world-wide on the Armed Forces Radio Network. Kickoff is at 7 p.m., CST, or 8 p.m., Toledo time.
They are on sale for $45 per seat ($15 for UT students with proper identification) at the athletic ticket office in Savage Hall.
Tickets may also be purchased by calling 419-530-GOLD or online at www.utrockets.com.
For information on UT Alumni Association bowl activities, call 419-530-2586 or 1-800-235-6766.