By Harry Minium
NORFOLK, Va. – While Old Dominion did not sell out a football game this season, the fans who came were loyal and loud and their cheers were heard and appreciated.
“I don’t think the fans realize how much they mean to us, how much they helped us,” said Blake Watson, the ODU running back who rushed for 1,035 yards in just 10 games.
“When games were close, they were always there pulling for us, making noise. They don’t know how much it meant to us to know they were behind us.”
So far, nearly 3,000 tickets have been sold by ODU for the University’s final game of the season in the Myrtle Beach Bowl against the University of Tulsa next Monday, Dec. 20, at 2:30 p.m.
Given that Myrtle Beach is a 5-hour drive from Norfolk, officials would be happier if closer to 5,000 ODU fans were in Brooks Stadium on the campus of Coastal Carolina University.
So would ODU’s coaches and players.
“I would love to see as many of our fans in that stadium as possible,” coach Ricky Rahne said. “We are blessed that we can drive there. A lot of our alums are going to be able to get there.
ODU running back Blake Watson
“I’ve been in some situations before where we’re far away from where our fan base is and it’s tough. So, this is a great opportunity for us to show the nation what Monarch Nation is all about.”
Ticket sales are still trickling in and ODU recently added a way to get to and from the game quickly for those on a budget.
Venture Tours of Virginia Beach will have buses leaving Monday morning from ODU and returning after the game.
The price is $99. Game tickets are not included but for $30, you can find good seats on the ODU sideline. Use the code ODU21 to make sure you’re sitting with ODU fans.
You can bring food and drink onto the bus and can also purchase, for $15 a person, tickets to the ODU Alumni Association Tailgate Party, which includes a buffet and two drink tickets.
If you’re planning to drive, you have two options for hotels.
First, you can stay with the football team and ODU fans at the Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes. It’s a unique experience to stay with the team. Who knows who you might bump into in the lobby?
There will be a bowl welcome party at the Marriott on Saturday night between 5 and 7 that is open to the public. To RSVP for the welcome party, CLICK HERE
To reserve rooms at the Marriott, CLICK HERE.
A watch party will be held at Banditos, a Mexican restaurant on the oceanfront, on Sunday at 3:30 to allow ODU fans to view the men’s basketball game at Richmond on TV. It is being sponsored by the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation.
To register, CLICK HERE
If you plan to drive and want to save some coin, there are 10,000 hotel rooms in Myrtle Beach and this is the offseason. I checked out hotels on Expedia and found some very nice resorts renting rooms for as little as $50 per night.
Most are between $65 and $150. Make sure and read the fine print, including resort fees and taxes. Yet given the rise in hotel prices in recent months, this is more than a bargain.
If you can’t go, consider purchasing tickets, at $30 apiece, that will be used by students. ODU is providing transportation for students, and if you can’t go, you will be represented by the students who you will be enabling to have the experience of a lifetime.
I traveled to Evansville, Indiana as a student to watch the ODU men’s basketball team win the 1975 Division II national title, and it’s one of my most treasured memories.
CLICK HERE to give ODU students that same kind of memory.
The bowl game will be televised on ESPN, the first time the Monarchs will have been on the nation’s most popular sports network since 2016, when the Monarchs defeated Eastern Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl.
ODU played on ESPN2 two years ago against the University of Virginia, but as a member of Conference USA, has limited exposure on ESPN. That will change when ODU joins the Sun Belt Conference, a league directly affiliated with ESPN.
Athletic Director Wood Selig calls the bowl game “a 3 1/2-hour infomercial for Old Dominion’s football program and the University.”
It is the only bowl game of the day, meaning ODU and Tulsa will both be trending in the social media world.
There will be highlights of the University, stories on ODU players and coaches and tidbits about ODU’s academics. And bowl games of this type are generally seen by several million people.
The game itself will be intriguing. Both ODU and Tulsa are 6-6, but the Golden Hurricane are nearly 10-point favorites. They hail from the American Athletic Association, which, for now, is the nation’s best Group of 5 football league.
Tulsa defeated SMU and Memphis and had narrow losses at Oklahoma State and Cincinnati and kept it close for most of the game in a 41-20 loss at Ohio State.
“Tulsa is a very good opponent from a good conference,” Rahne said. “It’s a great opportunity for our players.”
As well as ODU fans. And among those fans will be a ton of friends and family members of the Rahne clan.
“We bought 20 tickets the other day,” Rahne said. “And we’ll buy some more.
“We’ve got a lot of people who want to come just to show us their support.
“That’s an awesome deal to think about, having people taking that much time out of their lives to support you.”
Minium was a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot for 39 years before becoming a senior executive writer for ODU. He covers all ODU athletic teams for odusports.com Follow him on Twitter @Harry_MiniumODU, Instagram @hbminium1 or email [email protected]