A number of special promotional events and activities are planned by Ferris State University Athletics for the 2009 football campaign as the Bulldogs embark on their 101st season of varsity action with five home games this fall at Top Taggart Field in Big Rapids, Mich.
Ferris will play three of its first four contests at home in 2009 and the schedule includes a total of five home games on the Mondo Ecofill artificial-playing surface, including the first three under the lights at night during the opening month of the season. Two of the home outings will be against teams that reached the NCAA Division II National Playoffs a season ago.
"We're excited about this year's home schedule and the number of special events we have planned in conjunction with Bulldog football for this fall," said FSU Associate Athletics Director Jon Coles. "We look forward to everyone coming out to support our team and being a part of the exciting gameday atmosphere we are trying to create."
The Bulldogs will kick off the 2009 season by teaming up with Big Rapids High School for a prep/college doubleheader during "Community Football Day" on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Top Taggart Field. The Cardinals' high school squad will open its 2009 season versus Holton at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) followed by FSU's season-opening non-league tilt against Tiffin (Ohio) at 7 p.m. (EDT). The twinbill will take place as part of Ferris "Welcome Week" activities and a rocket football contest will be part of the FSU halftime events, making it a true community event.
"The Cardinal football program is proud to join Ferris for an exciting day of football, which the entire Big Rapids community will enjoy," said Big Rapids High School football coach Mitch Cumings, who guided the Cardinals to a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) State Playoff berth last fall. "It will most certainly be a day filled with quality football as both teams unviel the hard work of a long off-season and kick off their pursuit of championship seasons.
"This special event is a great opportunity to showcase not just the talent of our local student-athletes, but also the great relationship between the college, high school and Big Rapids community. It is a unique advantage for our kids to be able to share so much with the university and this is just one more extension of that outstanding relationship," he added.
Ferris continues its season-opening homestand with its first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) game Saturday, Sept. 5, versus Ashland. The Eagles reached the NCAA-II Playoffs with a 9-4 overall mark last season, but suffered a 25-24 home setback to the Bulldogs in week two. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. (EDT) and the game will be part of the area's annual Riverdays Festival with the traditional Fireworks Night festivities taking place following the contest.
After a week on the road, FSU returns home to square off against defending GLIAC champion and perennial national power Grand Valley State in its third home contest on Saturday, Sept. 19, in Big Rapids. The league matchup will represent the 38th meeting in the all-time series between the West Michigan archrivals with the game's winner being presented with the eighth annual Anchor Bone Trophy sponsored by Huntington Bank. For the second year in a row, Ferris will also sponsor a "Blues and BBQ" Tailgate event in conjunction with the game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. (EDT).
With all the activities surrounding the Grand Valley game, the stadium's "Modern Day" attendance record of 8,426 fans who watched the Bulldogs face GVSU in 2004 could be broken. Grand Valley State concluded the 2008 season ranked fourth nationally with a 11-1 overall mark after falling to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth in overtime during the national quarterfinals.
Ferris' 83rd annual Homecoming contest is set for Saturday, Oct. 10, as the Bulldogs entertain Indianapolis. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. (EDT).
The school's final home encounter will be against Hillsdale on Saturday, Oct. 31, and serve as the 10th annual Hall of Fame Game. It will also coincide with the annual Halloween Parade in Big Rapids and the program's senior class will be honored in conjunction with "Senior Day" festivities. Kickoff for the regular-season home finale is also at 2 p.m. (EDT).
In addition to the five home games at Top Taggart Field, the Bulldogs will also serve as the host for the unique "Battle At The Ballpark" game against Michigan Tech, which will be played at minor league baseball's Fifth Third Ballpark on Saturday, Oct. 3, in Comstock Park, Mich. Ferris will serve as the home team for the game under the lights with kickoff set for 7 p.m. (EDT) and it will be hosted in conjunction with the West Michigan Whitecaps organization.
A special "Kids Corner" featuring inflatables will be available at FSU's first four home contests in the turf practice area on the northeast side of Top Taggart Field and also be part of the activities surrounding the "Battle At The Ballpark". The kids area will be sponsored by Sgt. Shawn Fries and the National Guard.
"We're excited about being able to offer this kids area to the Ferris community and add to the excitement of Bulldog Football," Fries said. "The National Guard wants to be visible on campus and this is one way for us to make connections."
Tickets for all home games in 2009 will be available at the gate and more information on ticket sales will be available in the near future.