When the Mississippi State University Bulldogs and the University of Illinois Fighting Illini suit up to play in the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl, football won’t be the only thing on the minds of players and coaches. The sudden death of MSU head coach Mike Leach on Dec. 12 made some wonder if the game would be played at all.
Coach would have wanted them to play
Most residents are hoping that Florida sports betting will be legalized by the time next year’s ReliaQuest Bowl kicks off. The issue remains tied up in court, but a ruling is expected early in 2023.
Leach was 61 when he passed away following complications from a heart condition. As for playing the game, it was not a difficult decision for MSU players. They knew their former coach would want them to compete, MSU interim athletic director Bracky Brett told ESPN.
“The players are 100% behind playing this bowl game and doing what coach Leach would expect them to do. We all know that is what coach Leach would want, and it’s what we should do.”
The ReliaQuest Bowl will kick off at noon on Jan. 2 in Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium. The game will air on ESPN2.
Make sure your ticket is valid
Fans can purchase tickets to the ReliaQuest Bowl online or by calling (813) 874-2695. Tickets for club-level seating start at $170. Pricing for other sections begins at least $80.
Be careful, though. Tickets that are PDFs, printed copies or screenshots are not considered valid.
Where to stay if attending the game
Fans traveling to Tampa to watch the ReliaQuest Bowl in person have several hotel options.
For those looking to stay as close as possible to Raymond James and enjoy the same digs some football programs enjoy when in Tampa Bay, take a look at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay.
It’s the SEC team headquarters. The Grand Hyatt is a four-diamond hotel just minutes from Raymond James Stadium. It has all of the amenities one could ask for.
Another popular option is the Hyatt House Tampa Airport/Westshore. It’s the closest losing option to both the airport and the stadium.
For fans who want to be closer to the downtown area of Tampa, the Westin Tampa Waterside is ideal.
It’s technically on Harbour Island. But it’s still withing walking distance of all the attractions of downtown Tampa. For those looking for a lush and tropical trip along with the shopping, eating and drinking of the city, this is the ideal hotel for you.
How to get to the stadium and how to park there
Raymond James Stadium is best reached via rideshare, either Lyft or Uber. Though, there are other options. There are also taxis, of course, along with public transportation to get to the game. There is a pickup and dropoff station at Steinbrenner Field, across the street from the stadium.
If you are driving to the stadium, there are parking passes available. For cars and motorcycles, parking is $40 and will be available in lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9. Passes were still available at the time of this writing, but they were going quickly. For RVs and buses, parking is $140 in lot 8 specifically.
Team events available to fans before kickoff
There are tons of events for fans to take part in prior to kickoff. Most take place at Busch Gardens, Tampa’s most popular amusement park. .
On Dec. 29, both teams and their fans can enjoy all Busch Gardens theme park offers. On Dec. 31, there will be a Battle of the Bands between each college program at Busch Gardens.
On the day of the game, there will be a Pregame Bowl Bash outside of the stadium. That event will feature live music, interactive games and appearances by the college bands. Of course, featured at most pregame events, cheerleaders will be on hand to get the crowd excited. That bash begins at 9 a.m. in the South Plaza.