AAC team to play in bowl game at Marlins Park beginning in December '14
MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins' home run sculpture will become a touchdown sculpture for the Miami Beach Bowl.
Marlins Park will host a team from the American Athletic Conference in the annual new bowl game beginning in December 2014. The opponent will usually come from the Mid-American Conference, the Sun Belt Conference or Conference USA, and the deal with Marlins officials runs six years, through the 2019 season.
Football hasn't been played on the site since the Orange Bowl was torn down in 2008. Marlins Park opened early last year.
''These are hallowed grounds,'' Marlins president David Samson said. ''This is where the Orange Bowl was. The tradition of college football here should continue.''
The animated sculpture beyond center field will be activated when teams score - perhaps for field goals as well as touchdowns, Samson said.
While the ballpark is located in Miami, bowl organizers chose to name the game for Miami Beach six miles away.
''We considered South Beach Bowl, Miami Beach Bowl, Miami Bowl,'' said Nick Carparelli, senior associate commissioner for the AAC. ''We felt the national branding for the event that would bring the most attention to the game and the area would be to call it the Miami Beach Bowl. I think when people who aren't from this area think about coming here to vacation, they think about Miami Beach.''
Carparelli wore a white sport coat and bright Marlins-blue shirt to the news conference where the bowl was announced.
''This is what Northerners look like when they come to the Miami Beach Bowl,'' Samson said with a smile. ''We didn't even ask him to dress that way.''
Marlins Park has a retractable roof and was designed to attract football and soccer, as well as other events. Samson said first- and second-round NCAA basketball tournament games are a possibility.
The stadium has 36,000 seats for baseball and will have 34,000 for football. The field will run from third base to the right-field wall.
Other major league ballparks that host bowl games include the homes of the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays.
Organizers anticipate the Miami Beach Bowl will be played shortly before Christmas.
The Miami Beach bowl is owned and administered by the American, but will be part of a group of new games that have tie-ins with the MAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA. Earlier this month those conferences announced the creation of the Boca Bowl at Florida Atlantic University's stadium in Boca Raton, Fla., and the Bahamas Bowl in Nassau.
C-USA is slotted to provide an opponent for the AAC in the Miami Beach Bowl in 2014 and '15. The MAC will play in the game in 2016 and '18.
A television partner and title sponsor for the Miami Beach Bowl are still to be determined.
The Miami game gives the AAC contracts with eight bowl games that will provide six guaranteed postseason spots in most seasons.