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The world of major college football and the credit union community will have a rare collision this week when the inaugural San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl is played at Qualcomm Stadium here.

For the credit union, the sponsorship of the bowl game is designed to raise its profile in a market in which credit unions have strong marketshare, and a means of being involved in the community. SDCCU declined to provide the cost of the sponsorship.

In the college bowl calendar on ESPN.com, the full title of the bowl-including the CU's name-appears. However, not all references to the Poinsettia Bowl in the media include a mention of San Diego County Credit Union. Calbao said he knows why.

"We understand it is a long name," said CEO Rod Calbao. "But we've gotten a lot of good press coverage locally, including mentions on radio, television and in newspapers. The name recognition is always good."

Asked if SDCCU became involved in the bowl game to gain more recognition and thereby draw more potential members in the door, Calbao said: "It is more of a community involvement thing. It is another way to get our name associated with the San Diego community."

The Dec. 22 Poinsettia Bowl will be operated by the same committee that organizes the Holiday Bowl, a local institution. The 28th annual Pacific Life Holiday Bowl will be played one week later, Dec. 29. The name of the new bowl comes from the popularity of the Paul Ecke Ranch in nearby Encinitas, which produces 70% of the flowering poinsettias in the United States. The poinsettia has been the official symbol of the Holiday Bowl since its beginning.

The teams on the field for the Poinsettia Bowl will be the Colorado State Rams and the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen, but the real action for the credit union stems from the exposure being the title sponsor of a college football bowl game brings.

The game will be televised live nationally on ESPN2, and there will be numerous opportunities during the week of the contest for the credit union to garner media coverage, including a visit to the Miramar Speed Circuit for kart racing and video games, Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo.

The two teams will meet later that day at Children's Hospital to sign autographs and hand out toys and memorabilia to the patients.

The day before the game, Dec. 21, the two teams and their fans will participate in a battle of the university bands at the pier by the U.S.S. Midway floating museum. The players and coaches then will have a luncheon featuring former Notre Dame walk-on Rudy Ruettiger, whose college football experience was the subject of the 1993 movie "Rudy."

According to Calbao, "We will have someone from the credit union involved with every opportunity that week. I will be at the meet-and-greet when the two teams come to town."

Calbao said San Diego County Credit Union hopes to have signage present when the two teams visit the local tourist spots, but details still are being worked out at press time.

SDCCU is a sponsor of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which will be a beneficiary of the bowl game. Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego will receive $1 from each ticket sold.

Approximately 500 children-known as "Wish Kids"-and members of their families will attend the game on donated tickets, said Rachel Gershwin, director of marketing and development for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego. Gershwin said 50 Wish Kids will be in a pregame parade, one will sing the National Anthem, one each will serve as honorary captains for the teams, one will flip the coin for the pregame coin toss, and one will fetch the tee after the opening kickoff.

In addition, several Wish Kids will participate in two onfield check presentations during stoppages in play, and two will speak at the Wednesday luncheon at the U.S.S. Midway.

"When those kids are wearing their jerseys and standing with the captains for the coin flip, it is going to be an emotional moment," said Calbao.

"It is a wonderful cause," he continued. "We are trying to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and it is good for all the credit unions in San Diego. It gets the credit union name out there, and shows credit unions are active in the community and giving back."

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