Military Bowl executives have high hopes

UCLA players celebrate winnin g the Eagle Bank Bowl last year. The game now is called the Military Bowl. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post}
UCLA players celebrate winnin g the Eagle Bank Bowl last year. The game now is called the Military Bowl. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post}

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010; 12:15 AM

When the District's college football bowl game kicks off nine weeks from now, it will do so with a higher-profile title sponsor, a new charity and, if organizers have their way, a record crowd in the stands.

The game, which will be played Dec. 29 at RFK Stadium, has been renamed the Military Bowl and will donate a "substantial amount" of the net proceeds to the USO, according to Jeff Fried, the chairman of the DC Bowl Committee. The game had been called the EagleBank Bowl since its inception in 2008.

Fried said a minimum percentage will go to the USO but he declined to go into the details of the arrangement. He was, however, specific about his goal for attendance.

"I truly hope I walk into RFK Stadium on Dec. 29th and see 40,000 people there," he said during a news conference at Washington Convention Center that was attended by D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, USO President Sloan Gibson and Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush, whose company is a title sponsor of the bowl game. "I genuinely think we can do that. But there are certain aspects that are out of our control."

The game's matchup figures to be the biggest factor in determining ticket demand. A crowd of 28,777 watched Wake Forest defeat Navy in the bowl's inaugural year at the 50-year-old stadium, but just 23,072 attended UCLA's victory over Temple in freezing temperatures last December.

This year, the game will feature the No. 8 selection from the ACC against a team from Conference USA. Maryland, at 2-1 in the conference, is a candidate to be the ACC's representative.

"That would be wonderful, but I can root for whatever ACC team gets in," Fried said. "Maryland would certainly save on some transportation costs."

In 2011, the game will feature an ACC team against Navy, should the Midshipmen be bowl eligible; in 2012 an ACC team will face Army; and in 2013 an ACC team will take on an opponent from the Big 12. Teams must win at least six games to be bowl eligible.

Northrop Grumman, a global security company, has a multi-year agreement to be the game's title sponsor. EagleBank, a regional bank, will remain a principal sponsor.

According to the DC Bowl Committee, last year's game had an estimated economic impact of $7.7 million in the Washington metropolitan area. Fried hopes that, like attendance, will also grow this year.

"It certainly can be eight figures," he said. "That's our goal."

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