Eastern Kentucky University football will host the inaugural Opportunity Bowl in memory of Dr. Sheila Pressley, on Nov. 21.
EKU will take on Western Carolina University with kickoff at 3 p.m. at Roy Kidd Stadium and will air live on ESPN3.
Pressley was the dean of the College of Health Sciences at EKU and attended WCU for her undergraduate education in 1989. She passed away in January of 2020.
Pressley joined the EKU faculty in 2004. She was the first African American to chair the Faculty Senate at EKU in 2012. She earned graduate degrees from Tufts University and the University of Kentucky. She was awarded the Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence Award from UK.
The bowl was perfect with aligning the ideas of Pressley and EKU, which is a school that is full of opportunity regardless of an individual's background and gives any student the ability to succeed and meet their educational goals. The school strives to help students during their time at EKU and even after they finish with their degrees.
According to EKU Athletics, the following have partnered with EKU to contribute to the Bowl, Kentucky River Foothills Development Council, a Kentucky based Community Action Agency, the Kentucky Housing Corporation, the Kentucky Department of Local Government, the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, the City of Richmond and a host of other strategic partners.
“With our decision to play football in the fall, a goal we’ve shared publicly several times is that we wanted to create unique ‘opportunities’ and championship-level experiences for our student-athletes, coaches, and fans,” Director of Athletics Matt Roan said in a press release.
Roan continued, “Once our season opener with Western Carolina was moved to the end of the year, knowing about Dr. Pressley’s ties to both WCU and EKU as a student and in service, respectively, I began to collaborate with WCU to pay tribute to her in this way. This game provides us with a platform to discuss her legacy and highlight many of the things important to her, including eliminating barriers to education and advocating for early childhood education, among other opportunity-focused initiatives at EKU. It also gives us a chance to share with the world the things that make Richmond such a great place to live, work, play, and visit.”
The teams will play to fight for the Opportunity Bowl trophy, which will be presented by a national law firm, Dinsmore & Shohl. Not only will the team receive the trophy but also championship rings and student-athletes will get a participant gift.
According to EKU Athletics, the Opportunity Bowl is made possible by corporate sponsors and the city of Richmond. EKU plans to hold the Opportunity Bowl annually.