December 14, 2024 | The Historic Cramton Bowl

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December 14, 2024

9:00 pm ET/8:00 pm CT on ESPN

Montgomery, Alabama



Camellia Bowl Notebook

Posted December 21, 2023


By Barry Allen

History Lesson

Bowl games are a reward for a successful season.

The trips can also be educational, too.

On Wednesday, Northern Illinois and Arkansas State visited The Legacy Museum in Montgomery.

According to its website, The Legacy Museum sits “on the site of a cotton warehouse where enslaved people were forced to labor in bondage, the Legacy Museum tells the story of slavery in America and its legacy through interactive media, first-person narratives, world-class art, and data-rich exhibits.

“Travel through a comprehensive history of the destructive violence that shaped our nation, from the slave trade to the era of Jim Crow and racial terror lynchings, to our current mass incarceration crisis – and find inspiration in our soaring Reflection Space and world-class art gallery.”

The moment the teams were announced for the 2023 Camellia Bowl, NIU head coach Thomas Hammock has been excited to visit Montgomery and experience the history first hand.

“When it was announced that we were coming to the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, the first thing that popped into my mind was a history lesson — a history lesson for my kids, a history lesson for our players,” Hammock said.

“We know the history of Montgomery, Alabama, and we certainly look forward to our players and our families learning more about the history here. Because one thing about it that makes you appreciate everything you have, right, when you think practice is hard, school is hard or whatever you’re going through, think back to the history of, you know, why do you have this opportunity? And for our players to have that experience and go through some of the things that has happened down here, I couldn’t be more excited about.”

Signing Day

Both head coaches had to juggle schedules on Wednesday to build for the future.

Wednesday was National Signing Day across college football and both coaches were extra busy during bowl week.

Arkansas State added 20 players from eight different states to its 2024 recruiting class that is currently ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference by at least one of the primary recruiting web sites, including Rivals. Coming off back-to-back No. 1-ranked classes in the Sun Belt Conference, A-State has a school-record 19 signees rated as 3-star recruits by 247Sports. The class includes the first ESPN300 recruit in program history and four additions who are slated to be available for the Red Wolves’ 2024 spring camp. Arkansas State’s 2024 class ranks as high as 75th by the major recruiting web sites, currently giving the Red Wolves three consecutive classes that rank in the top five in school history.

“Today was a good day balancing bowl preparation with National Signing Day,” ASU head coach Butch Jones said. “Early signing day has become the major signing day. I thought our staff did an amazing job addressing a lot of needs, and I will emphasize that we are not done yet as we will have more to come.”

Northern Illinois announced the addition of 18 players, including 15 freshmen and three junior college transfers. The signees hail from 10 different states and included at least one player from every position group on the team.

The Huskies’ class features four players from Georgia, a state already well-represented on the NIU roster, with Illinois and Michigan each sending three student-athletes to DeKalb. Of the 18 players announced Wednesday, 10 played offensive line (4), tight end (3) or defensive line (3), positions – along with quarterback – that Hammock referred to as important to develop for the future. “With this group, we had a long-term vision of filling some needs, some developmental positions that we need to address including the offensive line, tight end, defensive line and quarterback,” Hammock said. “Those are premium positions for us as a program, positions that take time to develop.”

Wednesday Activities

Arkansas State and Northern Illinois held their first on-site practice on Wednesday.

The Red Wolves practiced for two hours at Huntingdon College, while the Huskies held a two-hour workout at Alabama State.

The Camellia Bowl hosted both teams at two separate events in the evening.

Arkansas State enjoyed a dinner and bowling party at Bama Lanes on Atlanta Highway.

NIU enjoyed a BBQ dinner and karaoke at the RSA Activity Center. The BBQ was provided by Dreamland BBQ.