- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

The EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium is about three months away, and organizers are starting their big push to drum up interest for the game.

The bowl announced this week a new advertising campaign to remind people about the Dec. 29 college football game, which could feature Army and a team from the ACC.

The game’s new slogan is “DCember Rocks at RFK,” a play on both the month and the location. Baltimore-based Leffler Agency conceived the campaign, which comes after the bowl rolled out a series of events at bars and restaurants throughout the region, including viewing parties of a different college football game each week.

“The idea generally is to create more excitement in the nation’s capital, and that’s what we want it to be,” said Erik Moses, CEO of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and co-chairman of the bowl committee. “We want it to be something that the community here and in the Washington metropolitan area looks forward to every December.”

The EagleBank Bowl is entering its second year. Its newness showed at times last year as officials scrambled to get the event together with barely half a year to prepare. (The NCAA did not award a license for the bowl until last May.) There were some internal squabbles, long days and a general feeling that organizers were pulling off a mini-miracle. In the end, the game went off disaster-free with a good matchup between Wake Forest and Navy and a solid crowd of just below 30,000.

“I thought we had success last year, all things considered,” Moses said. “We’re going to be looking to move that bar of success each year.”

This year, there appears to be tighter coordination between the bowl staff and officials from the Sports and Entertainment Commission, which operates RFK Stadium. Bowl co-founder Sean Metcalf, however, is no longer involved with the bowl.

At the least, the bowl staff and committee will benefit from having a full year to plan. But bowl organizers will face several challenges, not the least of which will be the uncertainty of who will play in the game. There’s an automatic tie-in with Army, and the Black Knights would draw a big crowd, but they have not played in a bowl game since 1996. Army has an easy schedule this year and could get the necessary six victories to qualify, but its loss to Duke last weekend suggests there may be some tense moments in early December.

“I think that’s going to be the nature of the beast with this game,” Moses said. “Everybody kind of goes through heartache. We’re just going to have to get accustomed to living with some of that.”

Bowl officials are working to bolster the game’s sponsors at a time when companies have cut back on spending. They did announce a renewal of the deal to make the JW Marriott and Renaissance the official hotels of the EagleBank Bowl. The hotels will be offering special rates, including $99 for visitors, fans and alumni at the Mayflower Renaissance and the Renaissance Washington, D.C., and $129 at the JW Marriott.

The Wounded Warriors Project, a group that offers support for severely injured members of the Armed Forces, will return as the main charitable beneficiary. EagleBank is also underwriting a program offering tickets for $15 for members of certain youth football leagues in the area. For each ticket sold, the youth football program retains $7.50.

• Tim Lemke can be reached at tlemke@washingtontimes.com.

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