Are you ready for some international football?
With an NCAA moratorium on creating new bowl games ending after this season and smaller conferences finding themselves increasingly left out of discussions with the power leagues, the “Group of Five” is looking across the country – and world – for some new bowl locales.
According to Brett McMurphy at ESPN, the MAC, Sun Belt, Conference USA, American Athletic Conference (the new Big East) and Mountain West are working to create more bowl games so that all of their eligible teams have postseason landing spots. With the current bowls tied into deals with bigger conferences, it’s the Louisiana Techs of the world that get left out when the music stops.
What locations are the smaller conferences considering for 2014 bowls?
Miami, Orlando, Little Rock, Ark.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Los Angeles; Ireland; Dubai and either Toronto or Nassau, Bahamas.
Okay, let’s just ignore all of the domestic locations because it’s already proven that Florida, southern California and random southern cities (Helllllo, Shreveport) can capably hosting bowl games. Let’s focus on the international destinations for a moment.
Ireland: Dublin hosted the Emerald Isle Classic last September, a sellout clash between Navy and Notre Dame that brought in 30,000 fans and millions in tourism revenue. Central Florida and Penn State are in talks to open the 2014 season there, and with the beautiful new Aviva Stadium, maybe an annual late-December clash could work.
Toronto: Every year America commits a mild act of war by sending the Bills to Canada for a game. The least we can do to make up for that is to give them a little taste of MACtion. (Toronto hosted the International Bowl from 2007 to 2010, but the event was canceled after its contract with the Big East wasn't renewed.)
Nassau: Various college basketball tournaments get played on islands (including the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas), so why not a football game?
The big problem with the idea of international locales (with the exception of Toronto, which is drivable from a lot of the schools that might be playing there) is that flights there are incredibly expensive and you’d be booking them with less than a month’s notice. It’s one thing to plan a year in advance for a trip to Dublin or a basketball tournament in Maui or Puerto Rico, but three weeks notice about a game in Dubai? It seems like most fans are going to be priced out.
If the schools can make sure they’re not on the tab for selling large allotments of tickets (not probable but possible), you can see the appeal for the coaching staffs: Hey kids, come play for our school and there’s a chance you’ll get to see the world for your bowl trip. In the ever-competitive world of recruiting, every little edge helps.
So good for the “Group of Five” for giving this a shot, logistics and affordability be damned. While a lot of people complain about the quality of bowl games being watered down, as we sit here in the desert of the offseason, more football certainly doesn’t sound like a bad thing.
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