The 2014 Bahamas Bowl will be the first bowl game played outside the United States’ borders since the last time the International Bowl was played in Toronto in 2010. The game, which will be played on December 24, will be played between a team from Conference USA and a team from the Mid-American Conference.
The game is exactly six months away, but athletic departments in both the C-USA and the MAC are already preparing for the possibility of participating in the first-ever bowl game in the Bahamas.
According to Dan Wolken from USA Today, several schools in both conferences are working to secure passports for players, coaches and additional staff.
“I’d much rather do it in June than have to be worrying about it in October and November,” said Marshall assistant athletic director for football operations Mark Gale. “As an athletic department, as a football office, it’ll be a big burden off of our shoulders. To get the entire team done, this is an entire week process. Once school starts and with football, meetings and weight lifting … goodness.”
Applying for each passport comes at a price, but that cost is paid by the NCAA rather than the schools.
Marshall, through Conference USA, is utilizing the NCAA Student-Athlete Assistance Fund to pay the $135 per person passport fees – a tab in excess of $11,000 just for players on scholarship.
Both Conference USA and the MAC stressed to its members that they need to be prepared to the possibility of being selected to participate in the Bahamas Bowl. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said that the league’s experience in the International Bowl was helpful.
“Our schools were proactive in trying to jump on this issue early, and that really means getting with your student-athletes now, collecting the information you need and getting the various applications in so we’re not scrambling around in December,” Steinbrecher said. “It’s a closer trip than going to the West Coast for a bowl game, but you have to have passports and you want to make sure everything goes well.”
Schools obviously won’t know their prospects for bowl games until December. That, coupled with the fact that the process of receiving a passport takes “four-to-six weeks” and many players are applying for the first time, the whole process is a big headache for athletic departments.
Middle Tennessee spokesman Mark Owens said the school told players in May to bring original birth certificates with them when they reported for summer school in June, but several players didn't have them, which meant contacting the state of birth to acquire new ones.
Like I said, it’s a big headache.
Wolken reported that Ohio, Texas-San Antonio, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan have also begun the process of securing passports for players.
And like Gale said, if Marshall doesn’t go to the Bahamas Bowl this season, then they will be prepared in the future.
“Next year all we’ll have to do is just the freshmen, so it’ll be a lot easier,” Gale said.
- - - - - - -