NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Old Dominion football team is headed to the Bahamas.
Dr. Wood Selig, the school’s Director of Athletics, announced Monday that the Monarchs will play the first bowl game in school history in the third annual Popeyes Bahamas Bowl against Eastern Michigan on Friday, Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. on ESPN. Eastern Michigan athletic director Heather Lyke accepted the bowl’s invitation on Tuesday morning, It will be Eastern Michigan’s first postseason appearance since 1987.
In a statement released Monday, Dr Selig said:
Today’s announcement represents the culmination of years of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. Our student-athletes have been grinding every day to improve and grow our program. Our coaching staff, led by head coach Bobby Wilder, have recruited wisely and served as great teachers to get the program to this level of success in such a relatively short period of time,” Selig said. “Our University administration starting with President John Broderick have generously provided the resources, facilities, and philosophical support needed to compete at this high level of FBS football. Our fan support for ODU football is second to none and continues to turn heads nationally with their incredible tangible support of our program. I am most impressed with the job done by our student-athletes and coaches this season and participation in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl is the perfect reward for a scrapbook season.”
While it may be a challenge for students, fans and the parents of the players to make the trip to the Atlantis Resort on such short notice, the national television exposure will be a big boost for the team’s program.
This is EMU’s second Division I bowl appearance in the history of the program.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to be selected to compete in the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl,” remarked Vice President and Director of Athletics Heather Lyke. “We are proud to represent the MAC and expect to finish our season strong. Our coaching staff and student-athletes have worked incredibly hard to be in a position to compete in the postseason and continue to build pride in the Block E. We are thankful for all of our loyal alumni, donors, fans and our university leadership for being committed to supporting our football program.”
Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion have faced off in two of the last three seasons with ODU coming away victorious in each of the contests. The Eagles dropped a 17-3 decision two years ago, Sept. 13, 2014, before falling, 38-34, in the 2015 season opener, Sept. 5.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be chosen to participate in the 2016 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl,” said Head Coach Chris Creighton. “Nearly a year ago our seniors set our season goal, to go to a bowl game for the first time in 29 years. We could not be more excited to accept this invitation. What an awesome experience this is going to be for everyone associated with our program.”
The early invitation allows ODU additional time to prepare to play in an international destination, including obtaining passports for those who still need them to travel to the Bahamas as well as giving extra time for fans to make their travel plans to Nassau for bowl week. Information on tickets to the 2016 bowl is available through PopeyesBahamasBowl.com. A reminder that all U.S. citizens who wish to attend the game must have a valid U.S. Passport to enter the Bahamas.
The Monarchs are 9-3 overall, and finished 7-1 in Conference USA this season. ODU finished the regular season with a 42-28 victory over FIU, the 54th straight sellout since restarting the program in 2009.
“We are all thrilled to play in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. The Coaches I spoke with about the Bowl said it is a great experience for the Kids, which is what this is all about. This is an historic moment for Old Dominion University and our Football program,” ODU Head Coach Bobby Wilder said.
Eastern Michigan will come into the game following one of the most successful seasons in its 125-year history. EMU finished with a winning record for the first time since 1995, most wins (seven) since 1989, and its first bowl appearance since 1987 when EMU won the California Bowl. The Eagles tied the FBS mark for biggest turnarounds in 2016, improving on its win total from one win in 2015, to its seven this season.