NCAA Approves Bowl for Washington

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A college football bowl game to be played in Washington was approved by the NCAA yesterday at its meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Congressional Bowl will take place Dec. 20 and likely will pit Navy against an ACC team. The site -- either RFK Stadium or Nationals Park -- will be determined within the next week or two, according to Sean Metcalf and Marie Rudolph of the Washington, D.C. Bowl Committee.

It will be the first college football bowl game to be held in the District.

Metcalf and Rudolph began work on the Congressional Bowl 17 months ago. They were joined in Florida yesterday by Bob Sweeney of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, Bill Hanbury of Destination DC, financial consultant Gene Metcalf and John Reid, the executive director of the Holiday Bowl in San Diego from 1980 to 2000 who served as the group's mentor.

"Everyone did their part," Rudolph said. "I'm not entirely sure it's sunk in yet. I don't think it will until we get the official letter from the NCAA. . . . There's an old saying that I'm probably going to butcher, but it goes something like, 'Never underestimate what two committed people can make happen.' "

The Congressional Bowl will have to reapply to maintain its status for 2009, but Rudolph and Sean Metcalf said the application process is required of every bowl game. They added that Army has agreed to play in the 2009 game, and they hope to have a service academy take part in the game each year.

"I think when the Rose Bowl reapplies it's a little more pro forma," Rudolph said. "For non-BCS bowls, as long as we're doing our job and the participating schools are happy and the student-athletes are happy, it will not be difficult."

Teams must win at least six games to be eligible for a bowl game. Should Navy win at least six, it would face an ACC opponent if the conference has nine bowl-eligible teams. (The Congressional Bowl likely would get the ninth ACC team.) Bowl organizers said they are investigating alternatives if the ACC does not have the requisite number of eligible teams.

The bowl committee's day began by making a pitch to an NCAA panel of about 20 members, most of them athletic directors and conference commissioners, at 8:30 a.m. Their pitch, and the subsequent questions, took about 30 minutes. They then went back for another round of questions in the afternoon.

When asked if he was nervous, Metcalf had an immediate answer.

"Yes, how could you not be?" he said. "There was so much riding on this. But because of all the help we got, this really took on a new life. And that's when the nerves kicked in a little bit. But we are very happy that Washington, D.C., is now included among those places that have a bowl game."

-- Christian Swezey

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