The head coaches of the two teams that will duel in the 2019 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl – the University of Buffalo Bulls and the University of Charlotte 49ers – were formally introduced at a press conference held at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium yesterday morning.
The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl will be the first bowl to kick off the college bowl season, which is in its 150th year. The game is set to play on Friday, December 20 at 2 p.m. at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Charlotte ended the season winning a school-record five straight games to finish the season with a 7-5 win-loss record. The Bulls ended the season strong as well winning their last five of six games to end the season with a 7-5 record also.
The Bulls play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and the 49ers will be representing the Conference USA. This will be the first meeting between these two National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 teams.
Will Healy, is in his first year as the 49ers’ coach and fourth year as a college head coach. He said there is a buzz on the school campus.
“Our deal was when we took the job at Charlotte we wanted to make Charlotte relevant on our own campus and then our own city and right now the buzz is real and people are excited. Students and fans across the city are really excited and we are starting to get our name a little bit more,” Healy said.
Healy added: “Now you don’t want to go anywhere else. There is not a better place to go play a game than here so we are honored and thrilled and excited about the matchup.”
Lance Leipold, head coach for the Bulls and who is coaching in his second straight bowl game, said his team was excited when they heard they were going to be playing in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl game.
“We are extremely excited. When we made the announcement, they jumped out of their chairs smiling and talking about how many swim trunks they are bringing and all those things, Leipold said.” It is an opportunity of a college student, many of which may not have the opportunity to come to a place like this at this stage of their lives for them and their families. After being here for 48 hours, it is going to be everything and more than what they hoped for. It is going to be a great experience.”
This is his fifth year coaching the Bulls team and added that being in the Bowl game will be a great change in climate for the team, band, cheerleaders and fans.
“People are buzzing about it. Since I have been here, we have had six inches of snow so when people are talking about 28-30 degrees Fahrenheit to come out here to 80 degrees, it is going to be something they are going to welcome – our band, our cheerleaders. It is a great opportunity for our university.”
Healy was excited for his seniors who will have the experience of playing in their first bowl game.
“The biggest thing about it is for the seniors that we have. To be able to experience a bowl game before they leave our place is a big deal,” Healy said. “Now they set the standard and the expectations for teams coming in behind them. It is a great way for them to go out. It’s an exciting year. We had our ups and down this year but the year we finished on a really strong note has been extremely rewarding and to bring them here on a once in a lifetime trip.”
Mark Alnutt, Bulls Athletics director, said that he is grateful for the opportunity to play the bowl game here and it puts both programs in a great light.
Mike Hill, the athletic director for the 49ers, said that he was grateful for the team to have the opportunity to be invited for the bowl and to be in a place like The Bahamas. He also congratulated the Buffalo program for what they are doing.
There have been some scouting by both teams. Healy said the Bulls’ run game stood out to him among other cogs in their game.
“We have to stop the run. Their running back has had a phenomenal year. I know they had an injury at quarterback but the guy that is coming to play for them has been playing extremely well,” Healy said. They have weapons all over everywhere. They play well defensively as well and they won five of their last six.”
Healy is talking about the Bulls running back Jaret Patterson, who has rushed for 490 yards and 10 touchdowns in the last two games.
Leipold said the 49ers is a hot team right now and they will have to control the football to win.
“They are an extremely hot team right now. We are just starting to watch the film. They have an excellent running back, a very talented dual threat quarterback and impressive defending. We have to try contain them the best we can and one way to do that is for us to control the football,” Leipold said
He hopes they get to come back next year and said if the bowl keep inviting them they will keep coming.
“I want to congratulate both of these teams for such an incredible feat to be able to come bowl eligible,” said Lea Miller-Tooley, Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. “Then you have your student-athletes who are going to have the experience to come down to a country that most of them has never come to and they are coming from very cold climates.”
Ellison “Tommy” Thompson, deputy director general at the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, said that events like Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl let persons know that The Bahamas is still open for business after Hurricane Dorian.
“As you know, The Bahamas has been going through some challenges after Hurricane Dorian, so these events put a spotlight on us to show that we are open for business. The publicity that we get from this bowl is absolutely amazing and what we need at this particular time. We are looking forward to continue the relationship going forward,” he said.
Burton Rodgers, the chairman of the National Sports Authority, thanked both teams as they look to play here in The Bahamas in approximately two weeks.
This is the sixth consecutive year that the bowl is played by teams with winning records.
The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl is the longest-running international bowl game in college football history.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism