Ball State's football team spent the final day of preparation for Friday's Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg bowl with a visit to the All Children's Hospital, a Kickoff Luncheon and a final practice at The Tropicana.
While the team settled in for the evening, the fans enjoyed a Battle of the Bands and a Block Party.
"We are excited to be here," Ball State head football coach Pete Lembo says. "It has been a great season for our team and we have been grinding every week. Our student-athletes are excited about this opportunity. Many have not been to a bowl game before so this has been a great week. The hospitality has just been phenomenal and now we are closing in on kickoff and that is what it is all about."
Ball State's football team captains - Travis Freeman, Scott Kovanda, Connor Ryan and Keith Wenning -- joined cheerleaders and Charlie Cardinal at All Children's Hospital, a pediatric treatment center located in St. Petersburg. Players, cheerleaders, and mascots for both teams were in attendance along with former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott, the honorary chairman of the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. Alstott and his family have spent the past 18 years visiting the All Children's Hospital and this is the fifth year the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl has come to the hospital. With the bowl game on everyone's mind this week, it is important these student-athletes take a step back and realize the effect they can have not only on the field, but off the field as well. As student-athletes, these young men serve as role models and their presence at All Children's Hospital made a world of difference for these kids and their families, especially during the holiday season.
The Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg hosted its kickoff luncheon at the historic
Renaissance Vinoy. The event brought together both teams to highlight their achievements during the 2012 college football season. The festivities included opening remarks from the master of ceremonies Dave Reynolds, highlights of bowl week and head coach's remarks from Ball State's Pete Lembo and UCF's George O'Leary. Ball State athletic director Bill Scholl and UCF athletic director Todd Stansbury also spoke on the accomplishments of their teams. The keynote speaker was former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, who talked to players about the challenges of life and the game.
Thursday's festivities continued for the two school's bands, cheerleaders, dance teams and mascots as they met on St. Pete Beach outside the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center for fun and festivities under the sun. The bands of both teams battled back-and-forth on the sand. The Cardinals and Knights cheerleaders then competed in a tug-o-war. Finally, the bands headed over to the Coconut Pavilion for a corn fritter eating contest. Ball State won by eating over 60 corn fritters.
Fans spent the eve of the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg at Ferg's Sports Bar in downtown St. Petersburg for the Bowl Block Party. The teams' bands, cheerleaders, dance teams and mascots were all present for the night's festivities. Spectators came out for live bands, interactive games, displays, bowl tickets and merchandise, which were all made available. The UCF and Ball State coaches shows were broadcasted for fans and while everyone was in good spirits, the rivalry between the teams could be sensed among the crowd.