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I-Bowl chief: Bowl has major presence in Bossier

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Bossier Parish is a big part of the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
That’s what bowl Executive Director Missy Setters would like residents of the parish to know.
The South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6) and the Miami Hurricanes (6-6) will meet in the 39th edition of the bowl at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ABC.
Last month, a proposed hotel occupancy tax failed by a little more than 200 votes. The tax was expected to generate $2.2 million in revenue. About 38 percent of that would have gone to the Independence Bowl. The rest would have gone to the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission and the Regional Air Service Alliance.
While a majority of voters in Caddo Parish favored the tax, Bossier Parish voted against it 55-45 percent. Unless they planned on staying in a local hotel, local residents would not have been the ones paying the tax. That would’ve fallen on Caddo and Bossier visitors.
Setters believes there may be a perception that the Independence Bowl doesn’t benefit Bossier Parish, that it’s mainly all about Caddo and Shreveport.
“There is a sense by some in the Bossier community that the I-Bowl offers nothing to that side of the river,” Setters wrote in an email to The Press-Tribune shortly after the occupancy tax failed.
In the e-mail, Setters stressed that that is not the case and outlined how involved the bowl is with Bossier.
The bowl holds an annual summer youth football clinic at Independence Stadium.
“This past year we had over 400 area youth participate, with quite a few from the Bossier Parish area,” she wrote.
She also mentioned how Bossier City hotels and the Louisiana Boardwalk benefit.
“For years now we have housed both schools’ bands and our game officials in Bossier hotel properties,” Setters wrote. “We’ve had numerous events at CenturyLink Center, including last year’s team luncheon featuring Kevin Mawae, and we will once again have our Parade and Pep Rally at the Louisiana Boardwalk.
“This has become a tradition for that event. Each year our participating schools also offer their players and administrators shuttles after practice each day that run non-stop to the Boardwalk.”
Also, this year Margaritaville Resort and Casino is the official media hotel of the game.
In the past, participating teams’ players have toured Barksdale Air Force Base and last year the schools’ bands and spirit squads hosted a private pep rally for military personnel at the base.
And, Setters pointed out, for the ninth consecutive year the bowl will award the Willis-Knighton Service Scholarship. The $2,500 scholarship goes to a Bossier Parish graduating senior who maintained a minimum 3.0 GPA and showed a dedication to community service.
Setters also wrote that the bowl has expressed interest in partnering with Bossier Parks and Recreation the way it does with SPAR and YMCA youth football leagues. The bowl offers free tickets to age-group championship teams and a monetary donation to league offices.
The annual bowl FCA Breakfast is held at the Bossier Civic Center. Also, Miami is practicing at the new Freedom Fields at Bossier City’s First Baptist Church this week.
In local media reports after the failure of the occupancy tax, experts were hard-pressed to explain why it failed. Some said the length of the ballot, which included 14 state constitutional amendments, was a factor. Others said it may have just been an aversion to taxes period.
Regardless, the Independence Bowl has one of its most attractive matchups in years as far as local interest. For the first time since 2009, it has a member of the SEC in South Carolina, which has one of the most well-known and charismatic coaches in the game in Steve Spurrier.
(Missouri played in the 2011 game but it wasn’t a member of the SEC at the time.)
It has a storied program in Miami, which has won five national titles since 1983 with the last one coming in 2001.
It also has the Duck Commander sponsor. Several members of the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame will take part in game-day activities.
Ultimately, the people of Shreveport and Bossier City and the surrounding area will help decide the fate of the bowl by whether or not they buy tickets. If Saturday’s game doesn’t attract a near-capacity crowd, nothing ever will short of LSU or a team with regional interest like Arkansas, Texas A&M or Ole Miss playing here again.
Of course, corporate and local business support also plays a huge role in keeping the bowl alive.
The Independence Bowl has survived a lot — lousy weather, small crowds, matchups of little local interest through no fault of its own and the changing landscape of college football.
From almost the beginning, there have been rumors of the bowl’s demise. It’s survived this long, though, and I won’t be surprised it survives the failure of the tax, too.

OPINION

Russell Hedges is Sports Editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He may be reached at rhedges@bossierpress.com

Note: This is an amended version of the column that appears in the Dec. 24 edition of The Bossier Press-Tribune on Page 5A