Preparation for the 2017 New Mexico Bowl between Colorado State University and Marshall University officially kicked off this week with the Intralot press luncheon hosted at the Four Hills Country Club.
Radio sportscaster and Gildan ESPN Executive Director Jeff Sembieda served as the master of ceremonies, introducing the coaches and athletics directors from each school. He spoke at length about the records that both of these Group of Five teams have achieved and what this bowl game means for New Mexico.
“This is a great kickoff for our bowl community and for the media to meet these people and get excited,” Sembieda said. “I love bringing in this intraregional game with two of the most successful group of five teams in conference history”.
Marshall University, made famous by the major motion picture “We Are Marshall”, was forced to rebuild its team from scratch after a plane crash in 1970, but has managed to do so with strong commitment from the community.
“There’s not a program in America that means more to our fan base than Marshall University," Marshall head coach John “Doc” Holliday said. "Some of you all have probably seen that movie…there’s a lot of truth to that. The community embraces our program.”
That commitment has resulted in a team that has won 10 of their last 11 bowl games and in 2014 concluded with them being ranked 21st nationally. Holliday has been to 26 bowl games in his career, but he noted that he has never played in New Mexico.
In fact, Holliday noted with a chuckle that some of his players, “thought they needed their passports to come to New Mexico. I had to get that corrected really quick.”
CSU Rams head coach Robert “Mike” Bobo acknowledged that he and his team are more familiar with the state, having played in Albuquerque, New Mexico against the Lobos earlier this year, as well as in years past.
“Our players are excited about coming to New Mexico,” Bobo said. “I think they’re also excited because of the great experience they had in 2014.”
Bobo also had praise for Holliday and the program he has built. He recalled encountering Holliday over the years, especially on the recruiting trail, when he coached at Georgia and Holliday was at Florida.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Bobo said. “I’ve watched him from afar. They’re excellent schematically on offense. We got our work cut out. But we’re excited.”
Also excited to be there were Marcellus and Elizabeth Medina, native American artists from the Zia Pueblo, who each year design the distinctive game trophies. Sembieda honored them at the banquet for their artistic contribution.
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“We would like to believe they are the most unique awards in college sports,” Sembieda said. He went on to describe the hand-made, hand-painted clay pot noting that, “there’s a pattern of war feathers on there and on each side there’s a depiction of athletes both in uniform holding up their logos.”
Since its inception in 2006, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, like its trophy, had brought together the traditional and the modern, showcasing to the rest of the world the many unique talents that make our state proud.
Aaron Cowan is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball and men's and women's golf. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AaronTCowan .