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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bowl game looks for wins in tourism, economy

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fort Scott Community College head football coach Jeff Sims (right) joins players and supporters in applauding the formal invitation to the inaugural Citizens Bank Bowl, which will be held in Pittsburg on Dec. 6. The game will match up the top two teams in the NJCAA poll, No. 1 Fort Scott and No. 2 Blinn. Organizers are also looking forward to the impact the game will have on tourism and the economy in Southeast Kansas.
(FSCC photo/Kathleen Hinrichs)
Craig Hull, the hospitality committee chair for the Citizens Bank Bowl, which will be held Dec. 6 at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, is looking at much more than a football game.

No. 1-ranked Fort Scott Community College and No. 2-ranked Blinn (Texas) will provide the competition. Their fans are expected to provide a major boost to the economy of Southeast Kansas.

"There are six (college) national football championship games," Hull, who is also the director of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says. "You have (NCAA) Division I, Division I-AA, Division II, Division III, the NAIA and the junior colleges. And one of those six is going to be played in Southeast Kansas. To me, that rests above all."

There is not just the obvious local tie with Fort Scott Community College just 30 miles from the game site and many of its players from the surrounding area that will help draw a good crowd for the inaugural Citizens Bank Bowl. Pittsburg football fans might be drawn to the game to watch the Buccaneer team coached by a Pittsburg High graduate, Brad Franchione.

Franchione was an assistant coach at FSCC in 1998. His father Dennis, was a head coach at Pittsburg State in the 1980s before going on to Division I schools such as New Mexico, Alabama and Texas A&M.

The bowl took nearly two years to bring about. And a better scenario developed for its first edition than perhaps anyone on the bowl committee dared to dream.

Bob Marshall, former athletic director at FSCC, started the ball rolling on a new Kansas bowl. The state had not had one since the Dalton Defenders Bowl was not able to survive the Coffevyille flood of 2007.

"Bob Marshall planted the seed," Hull said. "I took it and ran with it."

In April, Hull was part of a group that went to the NJCAA national convention in Providence, R.I. to pitch the bowl. Representatives from Hutchinson and Wichita were there as well. All three groups were approved by the NJCAA, which was looking for more bowl games since the Dalton Defenders Bowl and the Pilgrims Pride Classic had both folded and the North Star Bowl had dialed down its ambition to be a doubleheader and went to a single-game format instead.

The Wichita bowl later folded. The Hutchinson bowl became the Salt City Bowl with pretty much the forgone conclusion that Hutchinson would be the host team.

The Citizens Bank Bowl also got a tie-in with the Jayhawk Conference, which is considered among the top conferences in the NJCAA along with the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, the Western States Football League and the Mississippi Association.

"Now, here we are, six months along and we're hosting the national championship," Hull said. "You talk about having something as special as this but you have to let the chips fall where they may."

And the bowl is not limiting its audience. In addition to local fans, Fort Scott fans and Blinn fans, the hosts are looking to draw football fans in general from a large area. There is a plan in place to give group discounts to high schools that wish to bring their teams to watch.

"This is the thing from a tourism perspective," Hull noted. "I'm a tourism guy and we're looking to bring in people from all over the country. There will be college scouts, college coaches, alumni, parents, grandparents."

The teams will spend more than their fair share of money. But fans will also shop in area stores, eat in area restaurants and stay the night in area hotels. Blinn fans will be staying at least one night, if not two.

And if Pittsburg doesn't happen to have enough room, Fort Scott is just up the road, looking to return the favor its neighbor gave by inviting its team to the game.

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