An already bloated bowl schedule may get even bigger (cont.)
This year, however, Giannini concedes that the committee will have to weigh not only the individual proposals but also the larger issue of whether the pool of teams is large enough. The FBA has asked that the committee proceed cautiously until enough 12-game seasons have been played to produce a more thorough set of data. However, "there may be some concern about how you say yes to some and no to others," said Ramsey.
Of the three, the St. Pete Bowl seems to pose the best chance of approval due to the backing of four all-important letters: ESPN. In recent years, ESPN Regional Television, the network's Charlotte-based subdivision, has spearheaded the inception of several new games. It now owns and operates the Las Vegas, Hawaii, New Mexico, Armed Forces and PapaJohns.com bowls.
The St. Petersburg game is the network's latest venture, which means it already has a guaranteed time slot (though the current scheduled date of Dec. 21 conflicts with a Tampa Bay Bucs game and is expected to changed). Pete Derzis, ESPN Regional's senior vice president and general manager and brainchild behind the other recently added bowls, spent part of this week meeting with the city's convention and visitors bureau as well as other local officials. Tropicana Field has been reserved, and the Big East and Conference USA are squarely on board.
"The Big East had expressed interest in an additional Florida experience and had identified St. Petersburg as a possible site," Derzis said in an e-mail. "We've been working with the Big East for quite some time in building a model that we could take to the market. Conference USA had expressed interest in a Florida bowl experience as well."
The proposed Congressional Bowl in D.C. was the brainchild of two less obvious parties. While watching an NFL game together around the time of the 2006-07 bowl games, Marie Rudolph, director of federal government relations at George Washington University, and Sean Metcalf, director of communications for a D.C. council member, noticed an ad for one of the bowls. "That's when we realized: Why doesn't our city have a bowl game?" said Rudolph.
In the 15 months since, the two sports enthusiasts (Rudolph is a Colorado fan; Metcalf claims Hawaii) have immersed themselves in the bowl business, with the help of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. They have a date (Dec. 20), two possible venues (both RFK Stadium and Nationals Park have been reserved) and an agreement with ESPN.
Most importantly, they've secured Navy, which has sent upwards of 25,000 fans to recent bowls in San Diego, Charlotte and Houston. Imagine what the Annapolis, Md., school would draw in its own backyard?
Of course, that's provided the Midshipmen, which lost renowned coach Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech after last season, become bowl eligible. If they don't, and if the ACC can't provide a team, either, the D.C. bowl could be looking at a Ball State-Louisiana-Monroe game. Projected attendance: 27.
The sketchiest of the three games is the proposed Rocky Mountain Bowl, headed by a marketing employee for Salt Lake Community College's athletic department. The game currently has no set date or television partner. The Mountain West and WAC have expressed interest but neither has formally signed off on it. And Utah, the school whose stadium (Rice-Eccles) the game's organizers plan to use, wants nothing to do with the bowl, according to a source familiar with the situation.
If there's concern about running out of teams, this one seems the easiest to ax.
"We have the option to license one, two or all three," said Giannini. "We look at how many bowl-eligible teams each conference has had. If you have a conference that's only been averaging six eligible teams and now they want eight bowls, you have to say, 'Wait a minute.' "
Even at the current number, fans have groused about the increasing number of 6-6 squads reaching the postseason. Six such teams made the postseason last year (with four of them losing, meaning they went to a bowl yet finished their season below .500), and the addition of more bowls will only increase that number. Of the seven eligible teams left out last season, six were 6-6.
Bowl execs don't seem to view that as a problem.
"The reality is that I've yet to meet a coach who doesn't want a postseason opportunity," said ESPN's Derzis. "If they qualify, their season continues, they get extra practice time, they get a chance to showcase their program on national television, and it truly is positioned as a reward for the players, the staff and the fans.
"... Communities continue to embrace [bowls] and to open their arms to host new ones, and television ratings continue to show that the public has not had their fill of bowls."
The bowls themselves, however, may be running low on their fill of teams.