Report: Number of bowl games upped to 43 with new AAC-ACC matchup at Fenway Park

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Another new bowl game will reportedly be added to the slate in 2020. And it will be played at an iconic venue.

According to Stadium, Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, will host a game between teams from the American Athletic Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference as part of the new bowl cycle that begins with the 2020 season.

Fenway has hosted quite a few college football games in recent years, including the Harvard-Yale game in 2018 and a 2015 Notre Dame-Boston College matchup as part of the Irish’s “Shamrock Series.” Fenway becomes the third MLB stadium to host a bowl game, joining Yankee Stadium (Pinstripe Bowl) and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field (the world famous Cheez-It Bowl).

Notre Dame played Boston College at Fenway Park in 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Notre Dame played Boston College at Fenway Park in 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Fenway Park bowl game, which does not yet have a name, is one of three new postseason games in the sport, upping the total to 43.

The other two new bowl games will be played in Los Angeles and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The game in L.A. will feature teams from the Pac-12 and Mountain West and comes in the aftermath of the Mountain West’s removal from the Las Vegas Bowl in the next bowl cycle. Meanwhile, the new Myrtle Beach game will feature a rotation of opponents from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference and the Sun Belt.

The Fenway Park bowl is the last new bowl to be added to the next cycle. The NCAA Football Oversight Committee approved adding up to three new games last year. The 2019-20 college football season will be the final season with 40 bowl games.

Fenway bowl emerges after Wrigley Field bowl falls through

Dating back to 2017, Chicago Cubs officials have been vocal about their hope to host a bowl game at iconic Wrigley Field. That seemed to be coming to fruition in the form of an ACC vs. Big Ten matchup, but the talks hit a snag in July 2018.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Cubs officials and the Big Ten could not come to an agreement on where the bowl would fit in the conference’s pecking order. The Cubs wanted the league’s third- or fourth-best team, but the conference preferred to send a lower-slotted bowl team to blustery Chicago. The conference, understandably, preferred a warmer climate than Chicago in December.

While the bowl game fell through, there will be college football at Wrigley in 2020 with Northwestern moving its home game against Illinois to the friendly confines. The two teams previously played at Wrigley in 2010.

More sub-.500 teams will likely go to bowl games

The “there are too many bowl games” crowd won’t be happy about this.

With 43 games in place (including the national title game), a whopping 65 percent of FBS teams will play in a bowl game beginning in 2020. That’s 84 of the 130 teams. That undeniably means that more teams with a 5-7 record will have to fill out some of those bowl slots. But it also means some eligible teams who missed out — like Buffalo, UTSA and Western Michigan in 2017 — won’t be denied bowl invitations.

A 2016 NCAA rule mandates that all 6-6 teams must be chosen for bowl games before any 5-7 teams are assigned bowl slots. Three 5-7 teams — Nebraska, San Jose State and Minnesota — played in a bowl game in 2015. All three won. Nebraska beat UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl, Minnesota beat Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl and San Jose State beat Georgia State in the Cure Bowl.

Last year, the Pac-12 said it would not allow 5-7 teams from its league to play in bowl games.

“The Pac-12 is committed to supporting the highest quality of competition at post-season bowl games,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “In requiring a minimum of six regular season wins our goal is to support the significance of the bowl season and provide our fans around the country with the most exciting games featuring our leading Pac-12 teams.”

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