I have a problem. I am a football junkie.
I watched the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between Illinois and UCLA—each team operating with interim coaches, minimal offensive firepower and 12 combined victories—in its entirety. I did this because even the worst, brain cell-killing football between two abysmal teams is better than the alternative of no football at all.
So when the possibility of more games surfaces, excitement begins to build. It doesn’t matter when, where or how, just give me more.
ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy is reporting that more football could be on the horizon once the BCS is officially pronounced dead in 2014. With a new playoff set to become a reality after the upcoming season, new bowl games (in some potentially exotic locations) might not be far behind.
As many as nine locations are under consideration to begin bowl games in 2014, according to sources: Miami, Orlando, Little Rock, Ark.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Los Angeles; Ireland; Dubai and either Toronto or Nassau, Bahamas.
Any new bowls created in 2014 would be for the smaller conferences: the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt. An NCAA moratorium to add new bowls expires after the 2013 season.
"The smaller 'Group of Five' conferences are exploring adding bowl games because they are being locked out by the big boys," a source said. "They're looking to create bowl games so their teams will have bowls for their bowl-eligible teams."
This is a radical shift away from the path that bowls appeared to be headed down not long ago. The talk of heightening the requirements to become bowl eligible seemed inevitable.
Fewer games seemed far more likely than more. Now, the "Rice Bowl" (and others) could be coming.
If approved, "Rice Bowl" in Little Rock, Ark., will pit MAC vs. Sun Belt starting in 2014. Would be 36th bowl— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) June 14, 2013
From the possibility of downsizing to the brink of a December voyage to Dubai: The future of college football remains year-to-year, even day-to-day. Given the ever-shifting nature of the bowl system, this reverse mentality for bowls shouldn’t surprise. Remember when we would never, ever have a playoff?
The current bowl schedule includes 35 games, 16 of which feature teams from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC schools. The number of matchups featuring major-conference teams is expected to increase after this season, which means other conferences could be nudged out of the spotlight.
Adding bowl games—as well as the talk of some unique host locations—is a way of coping with the inevitable direction of the sport. Power conferences will soon have even more power, meaning teams left on the outside looking in will have to compensate for these unavoidable disadvantages in creative ways.
Although sending a seven- or eight-win team to an exhibition halfway around the world won’t bring the conference much brand recognition overnight, the exposure is essential.
If you’re the American Athletic Conference, which needs to rebrand itself long past “teams I didn't know are still in the Old Big East,” marketing will be an integral part of this process. This plan is evident with the AAC’s ambitious new logo, and it will continue in future scheduling efforts.
Part of this plan for the AAC and others could include potential postseason trips to Dubai, Canada or the Bahamas, although this seems unlikely. Dubai, in particular, would generate a handful of new issues that may prove to be simply too much to overcome. Still, the talk of new games, even if they remain stateside, would be good for the betterment of the sport.
Teams from the Sun Belt, Mountain West and other smaller conferences usually aren’t invited to the marquee BCS parties, but they do matter. The sport has grown increasingly top-heavy as networks and overall coverage zero in on teams and conferences that move the needle.
The Mid-American may not match the ratings of the SEC, but if you ignore these efforts, you’re missing out on some potentially satisfying football. Oh, midweek #MACtion is a glorious occasion that belongs on everyone’s weekly planner.
While a handful of new bowl games won’t bridge the gap between the "Group of Five" and the power conferences, it will help keep varying brands of football a part of the picture.
The possibility of more empty stadiums and unsold bowl tickets is a concern, but this has been an issue for every bowl game outside of the national championship. And selfishly, it’s no concern of ours.
We’re not paying the bill or sponsoring a commercial that will be cued up right before halftime. Our interests lie with the teams, the players, the coaches and the possibility of seeing something we haven’t before. This is why we watch, because the depths of June will have us yearning for any "Group of Five" game played in Dubai, Miami or on the moon.
I’m all for the little guy grabbing a spot on the stage, even if it’s smaller on the grand scale. More importantly, however, I’m all for more football.
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