The Alamo Bowl annually picks fourth or fifth among the Big Ten and Big 12’s bowl-eligible teams. But some of those middle-of-the-road school have produced top-tier performances in television viewership and attendance.
In 2006, the Iowa-Texas game posted the best TV ratings of any non-BCS bowl game that season. It was a Saturday night contest and posted a bowl-record 5.99 rating for ESPN, less than 1 full point behind the Orange Bowl that season.
In 2005, the Nebraska-Michigan game also earned the top TV ratings for any non-BCS bowl game in 2005. Both years, the Alamo Bowl blasted past New Year’s Day tradition-rich bowls such as the Cotton, Capital One, Outback and Gator in TV ratings.
The Alamo Bowl now will parlay those impressive ratings into an even better time slot. The Alamo Bowl has joined the New Year’s lineup, playing its game at 7 p.m. Jan. 2, a Saturday. There are five bowl games on Jan. 1 — Outback, Gator, Capital One, Rose and Sugar. Four bowl games are scheduled for Jan. 2 — Cotton, International, Papajohns and Alamo. There’s no BCS bowl scheduled that night, which gives the Alamo the entire spotlight. Only an NFL scheduling curveball could keep the Alamo Bowl from record-breaking ratings.
“This year’s calendar has provided us an excellent primetime Saturday time slot that will allow the Valero Alamo Bowl to reach a wide audience,” said Alamo Bowl President Derrick Fox. “The January 2 date should also work well for people traveling to the game as they can celebrate Christmas at home and then spend a long weekend ringing in the New Year in San Antonio.”
Iowa has played in the bowl four times since its debut in 1993. Iowa has beaten Texas Tech twice (1996, 2001) while losing to California (1993) and Texas in 2006.
The placement appears to be a win-win for the bowl and the participatory leagues in terms of exposure. Past Big Ten schools, such as Northwestern in 2008, looked at the Alamo Bowl as slap. Now, with a primetime slot in January, the Alamo Bowl seems more equal with the Big Ten’s other slotted bowls.
Look for the bowl to push both leagues for marketable teams, both geographically (Big 12 South) and from a national television perspective (say, Wisconsin or Iowa over Northwestern or Purdue). If the bowl can get a high-profile matchup, like in 2005 or 2006, it may be hard to bump the Alamo Bowl from the New Year’s Day lineup.