Biloxi Benefits from Bowl Bonanza

A recent article in the Mobile Register alluded to the positive impact that the Marshall and East Carolina fans' visit are expected to have on the city of Mobile, but what about Biloxi's benefit?

In the article, East Carolina's athletic director Mike Hamrick referenced the large following of fans ECU brought to town for the inaugural Mobile Alabama Bowl in 1999. Said Hamrick, "We brought thousands of fans to Mobile two years ago." In ‘99 ECU's team carried a 9-2 record and national ranking into the contest against an unranked 7-4 Texas Christian team. The Pirates ultimately lost the game and their ranking. ECU comes into the December 19 game with a 6-5 record compared to opponent Marshall's 10-2 mark. As a result, ECU ticket sales for the bowl have been slower this time around, but Pirate fans are expected to rally to the cause.

Marshall fans also are expected to turn out enmasse. Head coach Bob Pruett said of the Thundering Herd fans, "Our fans like to come south. Last time we came south, we opened up against the University of Florida and I think we had 18,000 or so there, however many tickets they gave us."

No doubt, the many out of town fans attending the GMAC Bowl will provide a significant economic boost for the local community, but it's not just Mobile that benefits. Close proximity to Mobile has made accommodations in neighboring areas like Florida's panhandle and Mississippi's Gulf Coast popular to visiting fans. Biloxi's casino resorts have benefited especially. After all, the casinos provide an additional entertainment offering that Mobile can't match, that is gambling.

The Mississippi migration is disturbing to GMAC Bowl officials because the city of Mobile and its residents financially sponsored the Bowl originally and despite the addition of GMAC's money still contribute heavily to the game's very existence. Biloxi receives the benefit without the financial risk. Realistically speaking, there's probably little that can be done to stem the tide of GMAC Bowl fans trekking to Mississippi, but it is only fair that Biloxi and Gulfport ante up appropriate support. And, it's important for the fans to know who makes the GMAC Bowl possible - the city and residents of Mobile.

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