BCS promotion passes 2,000 room nights

The promotion to lure visitors to Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the BCS National Championship now accounts for well over 2,000 room nights.

Linda Hornsby of the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association told Mayor A.J. Holloway this afternoon that as many as 30 buses may be leaving Biloxi Monday morning for the game, including 10 buses from the tourism promotion.

“Excellent work,” Holloway told Hornsby and Beth Carriere of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This is an outstanding way to kick off the year. Now, what’s in the works for February?”

Quipped Hornsby: “A chance to breathe.”

Media coverage: For an overnight sampling of the media coverage of the Coast promotion, click here.

Things to see and do: Among the headliners in town this weekend are Lewis Black at the Beau, Greg Allman at the Hard Rock, and Bobby Vinton at the IP. You’ll also find ice hockey and public ice skating at the Coast Coliseum, and a peanut butter and banana sandwich-eating contest at the Isle. click here.

Webcasting: The City Desk webcast returns after a two-week holiday hiatus. To listen to this week’s 17-minute public affairs program, click here.

Free theater: Ronny Broussard, the multi-faceted entertainer who frequently performs at city functions, debuts the opus “As Long as the Birds are Singing” as a complementary offering at Gulfport Little Theater this weekend. To learn more, click here, and to re-live his heart-rendering performance at the Katrina memorial last year, click here.

Clark Griffith: A Tide veteran hopes for a different ending

Biloxi City Councilman Clark Griffith is well-known for being a three-star general who once led Keesler Air Force Base, but the Alabama native also has a connection to Tide football: He was the head cheerleader for Bear Bryant’s first national championship team, back in 1961.

And only a few months ago, just before Veterans Day, he was one of four servicemen honored in a pre-game ceremony before 110,000 fans gathered for the — you guessed it — Alabama-LSU game.

Come Monday Griffith will be hoping for a better outcome than Alabama’s 9-6 OT defeat back in November.

Griffith was one of four male cheerleaders during his sophomore and junior years at Alabama, before graduating in 1963 as a distinguished ROTC student and embarking on a career as an Air Force combat pilot in Vietnam.

“I was actually told to become a cheerleader,” said the Gadsden, Ala., native. “I was a pledge in a fraternity, and they said, ‘Pledge Griffith, they’re having cheerleader tryouts and you’re going to be our entry.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’ve never done that before in my life.’ Damned if I didn’t make it.”

Flash forward to November 2011. Applause and honor aside, Griffith said, it was his grandson, one of three grandchildren and 23 family members at the game, who was most impressed to see Griffith’s image looming large in the stadium. “Granddad,” he said after seeing the huge Jumbotron screens at the stadium, “you were on all four of the big TVs.”

Said Griffith today: “That means a lot to a granddad.”

Griffith, meantime, sees a 14-10 Tide victory on Monday night.

Holloway also sees Crimson Tide victory on the way

Biloxi will host a throng of Crimson Tide fans and home-standing Bayou Bengals fans this weekend, thanks to the BCS National Championship being a mere 90 minutes to the west on Monday evening, but the crowd of Alabama visitors has nothing to do with Mayor A.J. Holloway’s predictions for Monday’s contest.

“I think Alabama is a better-coached team, and, if they’re healthy, it will be great game,” said Holloway, who was a running back on the Ole Miss national championship team in 1960 and played on winning Sugar Bowl teams in ’61 and ’63.

“That running back for Alabama, Trent Richardson, could be a major factor,”
Holloway said. “I realize LSU has the home field advantage, but you can throw that out the window when it comes to a game like this – a national championship and a strong rivalry.”

Holloway also discounted the LSU victory early in regular season: “LSU beat Ole Miss 7-3 in the regular season in the infamous Halloween game in 1959, and then a few weeks later, in the Sugar Bowl, on New Year’s Day, Ole Miss came back to beat ’em 21-0.”

The mayor’s call on the score Monday night: Alabama 17-13.

And to those Tide fans in Biloxi for the weekend leading up to the game, the mayor, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, has a friendly reminder: “Welcome to Biloxi. We hope you have a great time, and remember, the amount of fun you have is directly proportionate to the amount of money you spend.”