Shut Out: Smaller Conferences Seek New Bowl Games

Shut Out: Smaller Conferences Seek New Bowl Games

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Playing 35 bowl games each year may not be enough. With just 125 Division 1-A (FBS) teams battling it out for 70 positions, new games may yet be in the offing. That’s from a report published by ESPN on Tuesday, giving us the likelihood of 40 or more bowl games each season beginning in 2014.

Bowl Game Moratorium

The push for new games comes from the smaller football conferences, those that are not part of the Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, Pac 12 and SEC matrix. The five big conferences have been working diligently to upgrade their bowl alliances to ensure that more games are played between teams from the other powerhouse conferences. That effort restricts Conference USA, the American Athletic Conference, the Mid-American Conference, the Sun Belt Conference and the Mountain West Conference from the current crop of bowl games.

Currently, an NCAA moratorium is in place to stop the further spread of bowl games. However, the restriction ends in 2013, effectively allowing new bowl games to form. The five smaller conferences will most likely push for new contests, with cities under consideration across the United States and abroad. Indeed, Ireland and Dubai have been mentioned as possible locations for bowl games.

The current bowl “season” extends for nearly three weeks, beginning just before Christmas and ending around Jan. 9. Most games are covered by ESPN, itself the chief proponent for seemingly “all sports, all the time” coverage.

The Tourism Factor

Bowl game organizers see these winter match ups as a way to boost tourism. Such games fill hotels, keep restaurants busy and spread cash to cultural and other tourist spots. The bowl games themselves typically sell out with 80,000 fans spending upwards of $200 for prime seats alone and all the food and regalia sold at the park.

Last year, exactly 70 teams were bowl eligible when the season ended. Bowl eligibility requires a .500 record, therefore finishing 6-6 is usually your ticket to post-season fun. Two bowl teams finished 6-7 last year, requiring special NCAA permission to play. Those permissions were granted, locking out two other teams that were eligible.

NCAA Eligibility and Restrictions

With the potential of not enough teams eligible to play games, will the NCAA routinely grant waivers to fill available slots? Or, is the move toward new games meant to ensure that the smaller conferences are not shut out, perhaps forcing several of the smaller venues to align with the “little five” or risk going out of business themselves? Bowl games routinely start up and die, as organizers realize that the cost for hosting such games isn’t always recouped. Even with ESPN offering TV coverage with a good payout, some of the smaller bowls have neither the prestige nor the location to attract a fan following.

For better or for worse, college football continues to change. New bowl games may come, but without eligible teams to play them the NCAA may not give its usual rubber stamp approval. Then again, if it comes down to a bowl game in Miami or Nassau or one in a more obscure location, the warmer climate seems like a certain bet.

See AlsoNew Bowl Games Might Bolster College Football

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