Saturday, December 31, 2016

Scenes from a Western Michigan practice

  The media gets a small window of opportunity to shoot the beginning of practices at AT&T Stadium. Here's a glimpse of a Western Michigan practice through the lens of official Goodyear Cotton Bowl photographer Melissa Macatee:

Connecting with the Cotton Bowl: Social media and game day links

   If you're reading this, you've probably already found the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic's comprehensive website, But there are many other ways to keep up with the activities of the game.
   One game day, fans can track statistical information while the game is in progress, listen to post-game interviews and obtain written transcripts from Caption Northwest, Inc. Fans wishing to plug in statistically can go to
   On social media, information is updated constantly on the game's Facebook account: /cottonbowlgame, as well as Twitter: @cottonbowl and Instagram: @cottonbowlgame.
   The official hashtag for the game is #CottonBowl

Fun and Games: It's not all football for Broncos and Badgers

Wisconsin players hit the lanes at Main Event. Photos by Ian Halperin/CBAA

   Rest assured, the players for Western Michigan and Wisconsin aren't trudging through the week, never leaving their rooms except for meals and practices.
   One of the ways the players can relax is the annual visits to Main Event, a multi-entertainment facility featuring bowling, laser tag and games.
   For one night, each team has one of the Main Event facilities all to themselves. It's a chance to unwind, enjoy some food and fun - and find out who really is the best bowler on the team!


Did You Know?

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst has a family connection to Western Michigan's conference, the MAC.
   Some bits of trivia heading into Monday's game:

  • This is the fifth meeting between Wisconsin and Western Michigan, with the Badgers holding a 3-1 series edge. The first meeting was in 1963 when Wisconsin won, 41-0. Western Michigan's win was a 24-14 contest in 1988. 
  • The 2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is Wisconsin's 15th consecutive post-season appearance, which leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth nationally.
  • Western Michigan is 1-6 all-time in post-season games. 
  • The 13-0 Broncos are the first undefeated team to play in the Cotton Bowl since 11-0 Texas in 1984.
  • Western Michigan leads the nation in turnover margin at +19. 
  • Wisconsin will begin and end its season at two of the most iconic venues in pro football. The Badgers opened with a 16-14 win over LSU at storied Lambeau Field, and will end it at world-famous AT&T Stadium.
  • Wisconsin is only the second team from its state to play in the Cotton Bowl. The first was Marquette in the very first Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1937. 
  • The Badgers have a slight advantage in having played in AT&T Stadium recently. Wisconsin lost to Alabama, 35-17, in the Advocare Classic to open the 2015 season in Arlington.
  • Western Michigan will be the visiting team in Monday's game. The Broncos will dress in light colors and occupy the North sideline.
  • Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst's older brother, Rick, served as the Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference (which includes Western Michigan) for 10 years, 1999-2009. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't tread on these mascots - they've already got it!

   Although the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is sponsored by a tire company, you can't have people lugging around a set of radials to promote the game. But you can show people there are other things to be done with tire rubber.
   Thus, the unveiling Thursday of the mascots of both Wisconsin (Bucky Badger) and Western Michigan (a bucking Bronco) made completely out of Goodyear tires.
   The statues were made by artists Blake McFarland, who also happens to be a pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system. The creations are magnificent from a distance, but when you get close and see the material used is the same thing keeping your car on the road - they are truly awe-inspiring.
   One thing's for sure, if the pitching thing doesn't work out, Blake McFarland has quite a future as a sculptor.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Broncos making smiles at children's hospital visit

Western Michigan players bring a little joy to a couple of patients. Photos: Melissa Macatee/CBAA

   Western Michigan Head Coach PJ Fleck and the entire Broncos football team spent the afternoon sharing inspiration and “Row the Boat” motivation to patients at Children's Medical Center Dallas.
The team spent an hour signing autographs and making crafts with patients in the Butterfly Atrium. Coach Fleck and the seniors made personal visits to rooms throughout the hospital. He reflected on what the visit meant to him on a personal level, as he shared the story of how the battle cry of “Row the Boat” began.
   In February 2011, Fleck lost his second-born son to a heart condition. During the time of his son’s fight, he spent many hours at a children’s hospital by his son’s side. It was there that “Row the Boat” came to life.
   “We’re very honored to be here, representing the Mid-American Conference and Western Michigan,” said Fleck. “This is a special event for all of us. Particularly and personally it hits home for me. Any time you spend a significant amount of time at a children’s hospital, it changes your life forever, and that’s where ‘Row the Boat’ came into fruition. Because of the staff and hard workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to change lives.”
   After Fleck spoke, Seth Klugherz, Goodyear Director of Marketing, presented a $10,000 check to Brent Christopher, the President of Children's Health Foundation. In additional, Seth presented a gift certificate for the hospital to auction off for a ride for two on the iconic Goodyear blimp.
Senior quarterback Zach Terrell, along with four other teammates, joined Coach Fleck inside the Seacrest Studio to be interviewed by patients before heading up to rooms.
   "This is an awesome opportunity,” said Terrell. “We do this once a week back at home, so for us this is a blessing to come out here and do the same thing. Being here gives us a perspective that life is bigger than football. It’s about serving and giving and how we can have an impact and leave things bigger than how we found it. It’s amazing to come around and see these kids and the joy that they live their life, despite the circumstances they face. That gives us so much hope and really helps push us to be better, and to have that same perspective on life.”
   Each child received a gift bag from the Goodyear Cotton Bowl with the help of American Airlines volunteers that included items from Chick-fil-A and Goodyear. The bags comprised of Classic T-shirts, commemorative posters, a stuffed Chick-fil-A plush cow and a Goodyear mini foam finger and puzzle. Dr Pepper provided drinks for all guests.
A Kilgore Rangerette gets a priceless hug.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Welcome to Texas, Y'all

Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck shows off some new Texas-style headgear during the official welcome to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Class. Photo: Ian Halperin/CBAA
   The teams are here. Let's get it on!
   Wisconsin and Western Michigan arrived in North Texas on Monday. They were greeted by buses wrapped in images of their 2016 seasons. After settling in, the players were offered tickets to Monday night's Lions-Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium, courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys.
   On Tuesday, the teams kicked it into high gear with their first practices at AT&T Stadium. There was the usual oohing and ahhing about the stadium and its enormous video screens.
  Afterwards, players from both teams were given the option of attending the NBA game between the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.
   On Wednesday, practices continue and Western Michigan will visit the kids at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. Wisconsin will take its turn entertaining the kids at Scottish Rite Hospital on Thursday.

A bus wrapped in Western Michigan imagery pulls up at the Broncos' team hotel. Photo by Ian Halperin/CBAA