College football UCLA NC State
Petco Park at the beginning of its transformation for the Holiday Bowl. Photo credit: @Padres, via Twitters

North Carolina State’s football team arrived in San Diego Thursday to begin practices and activities leading up to Tuesday’s 43rd annual Holiday Bowl, the first at Petco Park.

There are no Californians on the roster of North Carolina State, from the Atlantic Coast Conference . The player raised closest to California is freshman backup quarterback Ben Finley, who hails from Phoenix. His older brother Ryan also was the Wolfpack’s starting quarterback from 2016-18.

The Pac-12 representative, the UCLA Bruins, are set to arrive Friday.

The arrival marked the first time many of the Wolfpack players had seen the West Coast, according to coach Dave Doeren, who was born while his father served at the naval base in Coronado in 1971.

“It’s pretty neat for me to get the chance to come back to where I was born and play in a bowl and to get to do it in a professional baseball stadium,” Doeren, who grew up in Kansas, told reporters Dec. 5, when the bowl matchup was announced.

North Carolina State is scheduled to visit the San Diego Zoo Friday, then join UCLA at Sea World on Saturday and on a tour of the Navy assault ship, the USS Makin Island, on Sunday.

This will be the first time an ACC team has played in the Holiday Bowl. Under an agreement announced in 2019, the ACC will have a team in the game at least through 2025. The agreement was supposed to begin in 2020, but the game was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The demolition of SDCCU Stadium – where the Holiday Bowl had been played since its inaugural edition in 1978 – left the bowl game without a home.

The San Diego Padres announced a partnership with the San Diego Bowl Game Association in July allowing the Holiday Bowl to be played at Petco Park for a minimum of five years, beginning this year.

The City Council approved the deal in July, overturning a previous ban on football at the downtown baseball stadium.

– City News Service