According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, we may be seeing a college football bowl game in Ireland, the Bahamas, or even Dubai at some time in the relatively near future.
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, the Bahamas.
The NFL has expressed interest in having a franchise located in London, but this is different. None of these college games would be held in an effort to “expand the international reach” of the sport.
The games would be held in an effort to help the members of the smaller “Group of Five” schools make more money.
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.”
The important thing to take note of is the fact that the NCAA is going to allow new bowls to be added once again, after the 2013 campaign. As it stands, there are 35 bowl games held annually, thus providing 70 spots for eligible teams. However, the trend in bowl selections going forward is to pit Power Five conference teams against one another because they have larger fan bases that are more willing to travel and their television ratings are higher.
Of those 35 bowls, 16 are guaranteed to host two Power Five teams, leaving 19 bowl games that may potentially bring in Group of Five schools.
But the postseason environment is only going to get worse for the smaller programs, unless they get proactive. While the 2014 bowl affiliations have not all been announced, sources believe as many as 19 bowls could go exclusively with Power Five schools.
Thus, with fewer opportunities available for the American, C-USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt conferences, the leagues may collectively look overseas: Ireland, Dubai and either Toronto or Nassau.
For a fan of teams such as FIU or FAU, for example, a bowl game in the Bahamas might be the perfect excuse to hop on the short flight to the islands and celebrate New Year’s Eve.
It could be even more fun for a fan of Cincinnati or UConn, where fans could jump at the chance for a tropical bowl game blowout.
Dubai, Ireland or Toronto? Any of those places could absolutely rock as well, but Toronto will be cold and the other two cities are really far away and extremely expensive to get to.
This could be a fantastic opportunity for the little guys to make their mark on the game, but the Group of Five had better do its market research. No one wants to play in front of an empty stadium.