It has finally started. The Pac-10 pushed over the first domino this week in the bowl game free-for-all by agreeing in principal with the Alamo Bowl to send its second place finisher there, bumping the Big 10. The Big 10 in turn is talking to the Gator Bowl bumping the Big East… and the frenzy begins.
For several years now, conferences and bowl games have quietly signed contracts ending with the 2009 season, knowing that it was the end of the current BCS contract, and wanting to not be left out when the dancing started. Well, the new BCS contract has been signed and the dancing has started. Early props go to the Pac-10 for being proactive.
So what are the implications for BYU and the rest of the MWC? If the conference wants to increase its national profile, then lining up higher profile post-season games for its teams should be high on the list. And, since an automatic bid to the BCS is off the table at least for a few more years, this might be the only structural change that can be made until then.
Currently, the conference has contracts with five bowl games for 2009, all of which are up for renegotiation after this season. They are:
Las Vegas MWC #1 vs Pac 10 #4/5 $1.1M Dec 22
Poinsettia (San Diego) MWC #2 vs Pac 10 #6 $750K Dec 23
Armed Forces (Ft Worth) MWC vs CUSA $600K Dec 31
Humanitarian (Boise) MWC vs WAC $750K Dec 30
New Mexico (Albuq.) MWC vs WAC $750K Dec 19
While that doesn’t seem like much of a lineup—three games played before Christmas, paltry payouts by bowl standards (even BYU home gate receipt standards), and with the exception of Boise (at least right now) all games are played in league stadiums. However, at least that is improvement over the initial conference post-season. These were the bowl tie-ins in 1999:
Liberty (Memphis) MWC #1 vs. CUSA #1 $1.3M Dec 31
Motor City (Detroit) MWC vs. MAC $750K Dec 27
Las Vegas MWC vs. WAC $750K Dec 18
The conference has improved its access (now with 5), geographic proximity to league fan bases, and to a lesser degree, matchups (reality is that it is nearly impossible to change the outside perception of the conference without playing teams from automatic qualifying BCS conferences).
Here is where the league needs to go from here (e.g. Craig Thompson’s marching orders):
• Improve the payouts to league teams—especially the conference champion
• Improve matchups, trying to get more teams from AQ BCS conferences and higher in the pecking order—in particular for the MWC conference champion
• Maintain five bowl tie-ins (MWC unlikely to ever qualify six teams)
• Maintain ties with bowls in the western US (unless prestige or payout justifies it), prioritizing destination cities (San Diego > Boise, for example)
With these criteria in mind, here are the potential options:
Cotton (Dallas) Big 12 #2 vs SEC $3.0M Jan 1
Alamo (San Antonio) Big 10 # 4/5 vs Big 12 #5 $2.2M Jan 2
Holiday (San Diego) Pac 10 #2 vs Big 12 #3 $2.1M Dec 30
Sun (El Paso) Pac 10 #3 vs Big 12 or BE $1.9M Dec 31
Insight (Phoenix) Big 10 # 6 vs Big 12 # 6 $1.2M Dec 31
Emerald (San Fran.) ACC #5/6/7 vs Pac 10 $850K Dec 26
Texas (Houston) Big 12 #8 vs Navy $600K Dec 30
Hawaii (Honolulu) WAC vs CUSA $400K Dec 24
What are the chances for the MWC with each of these?
Cotton—This would be the dream scenario. But not going to happen.
Alamo—Good city with a nice date and matchup. It has been reported that they will up the payout to $3M starting next season and take the Pac 10 #2. With that in their back pocket, it looks likely that this bowl will also move up in the Big 12 pecking order. So, take this one off the table for the MWC.
Holiday—Looks like this bowl is going to be relegated to the PAC 10 #3 and possibly to Big 12 #4, which might open a door for the MWC champion. Good location, good payout, good matchup. Would be an ideal upgrade.
Sun—Nice payout, good New Years Eve game date, would be great to play a Big 12 team, warm weather location and proximity is good (although El Paso, isn’t really a destination city). Would be great to Probably getting bumped to Pac 10 #4, so could possibly open the door for MWC #1 or #2.
Insight—Similar to Sun Bowl (date, matchup, geography), only better city (closer to fans), less history, and reduced payout. The date for this is better than the Vegas bowl, payout about the same, city not as good, matchup about the same. All in, probably on par or just below Vegas bowl, a good option for MWC #2 or #3.
Emerald—A better city and date than a few of the MWC’s current bowls. Better potential matchup and slightly improved payout. Toss up with Poinsettia Bowl. Would be good for MWC #3 or #4.
Texas—Non-destination city would be a stretch for most MWC fans not from Texas, payout is poor, matchup is sub-par. MWC should pass on this one.
Hawaii—great location, but destination would have to be its own reward, since given the low payout the conference would probably lose money. Would likely be playing against Hawaii in most years or another WAC team. Still, much easier to get excited about than Humanitarian or New Mexico. A potentially good option for MWC #3 or #4 or #5, but would need to increase the payout to make it work for the conference.
Here is the best case scenario (without considering a BCS game):
• MWC #1—Holiday or Sun Bowl. Champion goes to Holiday Bowl to play Pac 10/Big 12 #3/4 team on Dec 30 with $2M+ payout. Sun Bowl paying $1.9M (playing either Pac 10 #4 or Big 12 #4/5) would be first alternate, should Holiday Bowl go another direction. MWC would not be able to get both of these, so it’s one or the other.
• MWC #2—Vegas Bowl. Great city. The date holds it back from becoming a great bowl game, as it will always be played before Christmas. The matchup is sub-par and looks to get worse as it will likely be the Pac 10 #5 going forward. Also, will be known as the Maaco Bowl starting this year. Seems like a definite downgrade for a conference champ, but still a destination that fans will travel to for a game, and should be kept in the MWC fold.
• MWC #3—Insight Bowl. Good conference matchup with Big 10 or Big 12 (although likely the #6 from those conferences) in warm location (but below Vegas) on Dec 31 (better than Vegas). Payout at $1.2M is similar to Vegas Bowl. If matchup could be upgraded to ACC #4, Big East #3, or Big 10/Big 12 #5, then this would a great spot for the MWC #2.
• MWC #4—Poinsettia Bowl or Emerald Bowl. Two bowls in the same city might be overkill. Take Poinsettia if we don’t already have Holiday, and Emerald if we do. Can’t go wrong with San Diego or San Francisco.
• MWC #5—Armed Forces Bowl. It’s good to have some presence in Texas for recruiting and media exposure. The New Year’s Eve date is also good for the conference profile.
• Alternates—Hawaii Bowl. If the payout were increased to $800-900K, then this bowl might be a nice option for the conference at #4 or #5.
• Drop-outs—Humanitarian and New Mexico Bowls. The Humanitarian Bowl is a one year contract for 2009 and likely won’t be continued. The New Mexico Bowl, although it is in a good position when New Mexico qualifies, has served the conference well for the last few years and should now be passed on to the Sun Belt and WAC.
The commissioner has his work cut out for him, but the options are out there. Things are going to happen fast, the conference better be ready.
[Nov 2010 Update: http://www.byucougs.com/2010/11/laying-out-holiday-options.html]