Bowl Game Brings Football Back to RFK

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2008

The EagleBank Bowl, the first NCAA-sanctioned college football postseason bowl game to be played in the District, will be held Dec. 20 at 11 a.m. at RFK Stadium. It will be the first bowl game of the 2008 season.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the Washington D.C. Bowl Committee yesterday unveiled the details on the EagleBank Bowl, one of two new bowl games approved by the NCAA this year.

Navy will serve as the home team this year and will be paired with a school from the Atlantic Coast Conference, provided the teams have the .500 records necessary to be bowl-eligible. Army is set to play as the home team in 2009.

"I think people will pay attention," Fenty said at a news conference at the Navy Memorial plaza. "It's in the nation's capital. It will be one of the first, if not the first, bowl game of the season, and if you're a junkie like I am, you're going to watch every single bowl game starting with this one."

RFK Stadium has not hosted a football game since 2001, but the stadium is equipped to handle the game, said Troy Scott, stadium manager for the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission.

"When we had our field resurfaced after baseball left, we made sure we had enough grass in place we could actually host a football game," Scott said. "Our plan was to get a college game or two and this is actually good timing for it."

With Navy facing a difficult schedule and the EagleBank Bowl having the ninth pick among the 12 ACC teams, which as a group have struggled in nonconference play over the season's first two weeks, the primary options for EagleBank Bowl might not be viable, forcing officials to find alternate teams.

Sean Metcalf, a principal of the Washington D.C. Bowl Committee, said there is a contingency plan to select from an at-large pool if the initial options are not bowl-eligible, with teams from the Mid-American, Conference USA or the Big Ten conferences all possibilities. But Metcalf expressed confidence that Navy and the ACC schools would be eligible.

The game received certification in April from an NCAA committee made up mostly of athletic directors and conference commissioners, and the Washington D.C. Bowl Committee has worked since then to secure a site as well as find a title sponsor, Metcalf said.

Choosing a stadium to host the event was among the more difficult processes, Metcalf said. FedEx Field was not considered because of its size -- it can hold just more than 90,000 people, and the committee is aiming for an attendance of around 34,000 this year -- and RFK Stadium eventually was selected.

"We felt that utilizing the stadiums we had here inside the city works," Metcalf said. "We're all very close, whether it be the sports commission or the mayor. It is a natural fit."

Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk expressed excitement at playing a bowl game so close to the school's campus, calling it a "coup for the United States Naval Academy."

"We've got a bowl game lined up; we're set to go," Gladchuk said. "We'll sell 30,000, 35,000 tickets if eligible. It's up now to the team. The team's got to deliver; the guys have got to get it done. And I expect that they will."

Tickets for the game are on sale and range in price from $45 to $135. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company