New of Note: More Bowls, Viva Las Vegas, Dubs Repeat
All those folks who think there are too many college football bowl games will be disappointed to learn that more games are on the way.
This week the NCAA announced the maximum number of bowl affiliations each conference can have for the upcoming 2020-2025 bowl cycle. The new limits will open the door for three new games to be added to the post-season lineup in ‘20, which would result in a record 43 bowls.
The announcement lifted a moratorium on new bowls the NCAA had imposed from 2016-2019. With the expansion, 84 teams—or 65% of the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams—will play in the post-season. (Because the two playoff semi-final winners meet in the title game, 84 teams rather than 86 are needed for 43 games).
As a point of reference, consider that only 18 years ago, in 2000, there were 26 bowls and 52 teams participating in the post-season.
Why the proliferation? To put it simply, bowls do a lot of good. They build tourism and support non-profits in dozens of communities, offer thousands of athletes unique experiences all over the country, boost recruiting, and give teams an extra three weeks of practice.
They also make a lot of money for conferences and TV networks.
But the proliferation has its downside as well. The increased number of games has diminished both the quality of teams and the “specialness” of participating in a bowl, as well as the perceived value of sponsoring a post-season game.
In recent years, a large number of 6-6 teams (along with an occasional 5-7) have played in bowls. As a result, attendance is down. Marquee players are skipping lower tier games. And it’s getting harder to find title sponsors.
Years ago, most bowl games were sponsored by major corporations like Fed Ex, Wells Fargo and Mastercard. Now we have Walk On’s Bistreaux & Bar, Bad Boy Mowers, and Cheribundi Tart.
I kid you not.
The other big factor is that the College Football Playoff has become so huge that it dominates the national conversation. From the first week of the season, ESPN promos focus on “Who’s In?” Meanwhile, the lesser bowls have to struggle for attention and recognition.
Conference Limits: Here’s the breakdown of maximum bowl tie-ins per conference starting in '20: SEC – 11, ACC – 11, Big Ten – 9, Pac-12 – 8, Big 12 – 7, American Athletic – 7, Conference USA – 7, Mountain West – 6, Mid-American – 6, and Sun Belt – 5. Plus 2 independents (BYU and Army).
New Destinations: Two of the three bowls making their debut in 2020 are expected to be played in Chicago and Myrtle Beach. The third site is TBD. The Chicago entry is hoping to match teams from the Big Ten and ACC, which will have some ramifications out West.
Vegas Rises, Foster Farms Recalibrates: In the last few weeks, a couple of announcements were made involving Pac-12 bowls. The Foster Farms Bowl, the latest iteration of the game I ran for 14 years—previously known as the Diamond Walnut San Francisco, Emerald and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl—announced that it is looking for a new title sponsor. It will be known as the San Francisco Bowl until a new naming rights partner is found.
Meanwhile, according to college football insider and former ESPN writer Brett McMurphy, the Las Vegas Bowl will end its affiliation with the Mountain West Conference and match the Pac-12 with another Power Five league—probably the SEC—when it moves out of antiquated Sam Boyd Stadium and into the Raiders’ fancy new facility in 2020.
The new stadium and new affiliation are likely to move the Las Vegas Bowl up in the Pac-12 pecking order.
Right now, Vegas picks sixth after the Rose, Alamo, Holiday, San Francisco and Sun Bowls. McMurphy and other pundits believe Vegas will leapfrog the Sun, SF, Holiday and perhaps even the Alamo in the conference lineup. The new Sin City stadium may also bid to host the conference championship game in the not-too-distant future.
To assume a spot in the Chicago bowl, the Big Ten is expected to drop one of its two California bowls, most likely San Francisco, according to McMurphy. If that happens, the Levi’s Stadium gang will need to find a new partner to play the Pac-12.
So stay tuned. There are plenty of changes ahead in the bowl pantheon.
Warriors’ Redux: Congrats to our Golden State Warriors, who overcame LeBron James to claim their third title in four years. Many pundits, including your humble columnist, believe it would’ve been four in a row if not for Draymond Green’s questionable Game 5 suspension in 2016.
Some feel this championship is tainted because of Chris Paul’s absence in games six and seven of the Western Finals, but they forget that the Warriors were without 2015 Championship Finals MVP Andre Iguodala for the entire series. With Iguodala, the Dubs might well have won games 4 and 5, meaning that the series would’ve been over before CP3 got hurt.