Fort Worth, Texas, December 26, 2010 – By planes and buses players and coaches from the United States Military Academy and SMU arrived here Sunday with both schools practicing before being greeted by Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl officials and volunteers at an evening “Welcome Party” at Billy Bob’s Texas in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.
SMU was the first to arrive at its Fort Worth hotel Sunday morning via buses with the Mustangs practicing in the early afternoon at Burleson Centennial High School for two hours. With the Black Knights players flying into the MetroPlex from all parts of the country, Army practiced later in the afternoon at Kennedale High School for two hours.
“It was nice to get a change of venue today,” said third-year Mustang coach June Jones, who has guided SMU to back-to-back bowl games after winning the 2009 Hawai’i Bowl by defeating Nevada 45-10. “When you get away, the guys’ focus always improves and today was no different. Practice today was very sharp.”
Army coach Rick Ellerson, who played and coached with Jones in Hawai’i, also expressed his pleasure upon his team’s arrival into Fort Worth. “With a number of our players from Texas, this is a real boon for them and their families to be that close to home and have a chance to play one more time in front of those folks. This is a long way from West Point, but it’s not foreign territory for us."
The Billy Bob’s event was highlighted by friendly competition between the two schools with SMU gaining the early edge for this week’s event by winning three of the five “Minute to Win it” contests featuring 10 players from each school. Before the spirited competition, Jones, Ellerson and the athletic directors from Army and SMU each received Stetson hats from Peter Bros. of Fort Worth.
Owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television, Inc. (ERT), a subsidiary of ESPN, the “official bowl game that honors all branches of the United States armed forces” will kickoff at 11 a.m. (CST) Thursday. The game, which will be aired nationally on ESPN and ESPN Radio, will feature Army’s No. 10-ranked rushing offense (256.0 yards per game) against SMU’s No. 22nd-ranked passing attack (273.8 yards per game).
Tickets sales for the eighth annual post-season game remain brisk with both Army and SMU nearing a “sell out” of their 10,000-ticket allotments each. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl office is selling standing-room only tickets at $10 each as Thursday’s game could exceed the Gerald J. Ford Stadium attendance record of 35,481 for SMU’s home game earlier this season against TCU on September 24.