EKU to host inaugural Opportunity Bowl

The game on Nov. 21 featuring EKU and Western Carolina University will honor memory of Dr. Sheila Pressley


RICHMOND, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Eastern Kentucky University will host the inaugural Opportunity Bowl in memory of Dr. Sheila Pressley on Nov. 21, 2020, Vice President and Director of Athletics Matt Roan announced today. The game will feature EKU and Western Carolina University.

Kickoff of the inaugural Opportunity Bowl is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET at Roy Kidd Stadium. The Opportunity Bowl will air live on ESPN3.

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Pressley, who passed away in January of 2020, was the dean of the College of Health Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University. She attended Western Carolina University for her undergraduate education, graduating in 1989.

The name for the bowl game was a natural fit as EKU is known as a school of opportunity, a point of pride for Pressley. Access plus affordability equals opportunity at Eastern Kentucky University for students from diverse backgrounds and EKU is committed to making sure all students have access to a quality education, and strives to nurture their abilities and help them meet the challenges they face when returning to their communities to live and work after completing their degrees. The Opportunity Bowl will provide a platform to highlight opportunity-focused initiatives at EKU made possible through strategic partnerships with the 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.

These initiatives include the Eastern Scholar House for single parents with children, the early Childhood Development Center, the EKU Veterans Education and Transition Support Center which delivers supportive services for veterans, the Workforce Pathway at Kit Carson Commons which is currently under construction, and the Colonel Commitment Scholarship Model.

“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,” Vice President and Director of Athletics Matt Roan said. “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 two teams will play for the right to hoist the Opportunity Bowl trophy, which is being presented by Dinsmore & Shohl – a full service national law firm with over 650 attorneys. The winning team will receive Opportunity Bowl championship rings and all student-athletes will receive a participant gift, in accordance with NCAA guidelines. The Opportunity Bowl is made possible by corporate sponsors and the city of Richmond, Kentucky – visitrichmondky.com.

Before joining the faculty at EKU in 2004, Pressley participated in conservation efforts in Zimbabwe, spent a year with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office and served with several nonprofit agencies. As an EKU faculty member, she became the first African American to chair the EKU Faculty Senate (2012-14). Pressley also served as the university Faculty Athletics Representative, co-chair of the New Faculty Orientation Committee, and a member of the Presidential Search Committee (2012-13), Strategic Planning Steering Committee, NCAA EKU Athletics Certification Committee and the Diversity Planning Council. She was also part of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority on campus.

Pressley earned graduate degrees from Tufts University and the University of Kentucky. UK awarded her the Lyman T. Johnson Torch of Excellence Award, which honors outstanding African American alumni.

EKU Athletics intends to hold the Opportunity Bowl annually, further cementing the athletics department’s goal to showcase the institution and its faculty, staff and students.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com