“We have to do this.”
Those were the words spoken by Ryan McGee, Senior Writer at ESPN and cohost of the SEC Network’s Marty and McGee show shortly after the creation of the Myrtle Beach Bowl was announced in November of 2018.
What followed was a nearly two year-long lobbying effort by both McGee and fellow ESPN reporter and cohost Marty Smith to join the broadcast team for the inaugural Myrtle Beach bowl in 2020. The pair would use their nationally televised show to get the attention of Burke Magnus, the President of Programming and Original Content at ESPN, to assign them to the broadcast.
“The way it came together in our minds met our dreams,” Smith said. “When we first started messing around lobbying for this thing, we were picking on Burke Magnus, and we kept dropping Burke’s name on our radio show like ‘we know Burke’s a big listener, so we know he’s listening right now.’”
When Appalachian State and North Texas met on the “surf turf” at Brooks Stadium on the campus of Coastal Carolina on December 21, 2020, it was the first bowl game played in the state of South Carolina. The duo opened the ESPN broadcast from the boardwalk, munching on some Grand Strand saltwater taffy and wearing signature Myrtle Beach airbrushed t-shirts.
“It was all I dreamed of and more,” McGee said.
“We just had so much fun trying to share Myrtle Beach with the world,” Smith agreed.
Both McGee and Smith are very familiar with the Myrtle Beach area, having both grown up in the South. Smith is originally from Virginia and graduated from Radford University in the 1990s. McGee grew up in North Carolina and is a University of Tennessee alum. The pair now live in Charlotte, N.C., with their families, and their show is filmed in the ESPN Charlotte studio.
“You name it, I’ve done it down there,” Smith said about his experience on the Grand Strand. “Bachelor parties, speaking engagements, I’ve covered many events. You can have a good time in Myrtle Beach, and you don’t have to look very far to get it.”
McGee’s family used to own a beach house about 30 minutes up the coast in Calabash, N.C., but there was always one day they would set aside to come down and see the magic of Myrtle.
“I’ve gone down there every single summer since I could walk,” McGee said. “The cool thing is, now my daughter is a teenager. Taking her to Jungle Golf, and the pancake house, and Ripley’s, and seeing all the stuff that I saw as a kid.”
In 2020, football took center stage on the Grand Strand. Just up the road in Conway, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers went 11-0 during the regular season and were ranked as high as No. 9 in the AP poll, the first time the school had ever been ranked at the FBS level. Coastal went on to play in the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., falling to Liberty 37-34.
Before being assigned to broadcast the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl, both McGee and Smith made their way to Brooks Stadium to broadcast separate Coastal Carolina football games during the historic season. For Smith, his first taste of the teal field was a 34-23 Coastal win over rival Appalachian State.
“I looked up at the goal post, and I noticed that the net that catches the ball was sponsored by 707 Indoor Shooting Range,” Smith said. “I thought, ‘man, this is the most Myrtle Beach thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’”
Having been around the Carolinas for a while, McGee remembered when Conway High School used to occupy the same land where Brooks Stadium now stands. He was on the sidelines for arguably the most important win in Coastal Carolina history, a 22-17 triumph over BYU after the school hosted ESPN’s College Gameday.
“It was super fun,” McGee said. “I never thought Coastal would play football period, let alone play at a top-25 level.”
The two were able to cover the historic season for the Chanticleers extensively not only on the sidelines, but also on their show. That helped their case to broadcast the bowl game played at Coastal’s home stadium. In fact, Chanticleer head coach Jamey Chadwell was interviewed during the Myrtle Beach Bowl last year by the two.
“The fact that we had been talking about Coastal Carolina, and that stadium, and that turf on Marty and McGeefor months, that did not hurt when it came to us promoting the game,” McGee said. “It all came together; it was like one of those magical times.”
After the oddities of the 2020 regular season, the Myrtle Beach Bowl officially kicked off bowl season. Following a five-hour trip down the mountain from Boone, N.C., Appalachian State took home the first-ever Myrtle Beach Bowl trophy with a 56-28 win over North Texas. Camerun Peoples rushed for a single-game bowl record 317 yards and five rushing touchdowns in the Mountaineer victory on an uncharacteristically chilly Monday in December.
“Those App State fans love going to Myrtle beach,” McGee said. “So that crowd was nuts.”
The second edition of the Myrtle Beach Bowl is now just days away, featuring the Tulsa Golden Hurricane of the American Athletic Conference, and the Old Dominion Monarchs from Conference USA. McGee and Smith’s return was announced by ESPN on December 8th.
With bowl season quickly approaching, the duo will have quite a busy month on the show, with Smith traveling to New York for the Heisman ceremony, Ann Arbor for stories on Michigan, among many other stops throughout December.
“I’m just trying to figure out what city I’m in right now,” Smith said.
McGee writes a weekly column for ESPN.com entitled Bottom 10, where Old Dominion was featured frequently, especially after their 1-6 start to the 2021 season. But after winning five-straight to close out the year, the Monarchs will be playing in just their second bowl game in program history.
“I did a double take,” McGee said. “I knew they had won a couple games, but I couldn’t believe they made a bowl game. The best part of writing the Bottom 10 is when a team that I have watched a lot, suddenly graduates and gets to a bowl game.”
Come December 20, both McGee and Smith will know what city they’re in as they make their way back to the Grand Strand. Smith will be on the Old Dominion sideline, with McGee covering Tulsa. The two are once again prepared to share their love for Myrtle Beach with college football fans across the nation.
“On the way into town, we are going to stop at Wings Beachwear and buy the gaudiest Myrtle Beach hoodies we can find, and that’s going to be our uniform,” Smith said.
“I’m thinking maybe a shark tooth necklace,” McGee added.
The second annual Myrtle Beach Bowl airs on ESPN on Monday, December 20, at 2:30 ET.
Photos (Credit to Thaddeus Robinson)