Our football team just wrapped up its first Bowl Week practice session down in Jacksonville and we have officially been on the ground in Gator Bowl country for more than 24 hours. So far the committee and our hosts have been tremendously welcoming and we've picked up a few bits of knowledge that we'd like to pass along to you in this blog!
If you don't follow us on Twitter (@NU_Sports), do so! Tonight, we will be turning over the handle to one of our student-athletes as the team visits Latitude 30, which features activities like bowling, billiards and arcade games. Should be a fun night for the team!
* First, a few words about practice. We are working out at Jacksonville University, which is a Division I FCS school in the "non-scholarship" Pioneer Football Conference. While the Dolphins and their PFC brethren compete in NCAA Division I and give scholarships in other sports such as basketball, they do not provide scholarships in football. Below is a picture of Jacksonville University's competition field, which we were told by local media regularly has 2,500 people and up to 4-5,000 fans for a recent PFC championship-deciding game. Imagine that number of folks packed onto the adjacent banks like a miniature Little League World Series game. The school does have construction plans, which you can read about at their official website.
* Practice today was good, though all of the players interviewed afterward mentioned there was rust to shake off following the Christmas break. The team will get after it just as hard in tomorrow's workout. Several local television stations (including one branded as the "Action News" team for you Anchorman fans) and a local beat writer came out to cover the squad today.
* Our Florida Times-Union beat writer for the week is Jeff Elliott, who has some very strong Big Ten ties. A native of Michigan who graduated from Michigan State, Elliott previously worked at the Big Ten Conference in the position currently held by Mark Rudner. In fact, Elliott reported to us that he was part of the team that hired Rudner at the league office before moving on in his career.
* One local media member admitted the Gator Bowl has not been receiving the type of local press it has in past years, whether it be on the city's one 24/7 sports talk radio station or in local TV sportscasts. The reason: Tim Tebow. The Florida graduate and current New York Jets roster member has been rumored to be headed to the Jacksonville Jaguars by whomever in the media says such things. Time to introduce this region of Florida to Kain Colter...
* No matter when you are coming down to Florida, pack a jacket! Temperatures when we left the hotel for the field today were still in the upper 30s and much of the same is forecasted for the next week. It is brilliantly sunny, but also bitingly crisp at times.
* Our hospitality hosts suggested a few fun spots at the Jacksonville Landing, but for some reason were very high on St John's Town Center, which is a mall featuring several high-end dining options and of course shopping. We'll leave it to you to decide where you want to be when you arrive in Jacksonville, but we felt obligated to pass that local opinion along. Also, be prepared to see a ton of "Green Jackets" between downtown and the stadium on New Year's Day. Though none of them won the Masters, they all are very proud of their Gator Bowl committee positions and would love to make your acquaintance.