Big Ten football fans like Cotton as next league bowl

May 28, 2009
Although this building won't host the annual Cotton Bowl any longer, many fans want the bowl to select a Big Ten team, according to an online poll.

Although this building won't host the annual Cotton Bowl any longer, many fans want the bowl to select a Big Ten team, according to an online poll.

It’s hardly a scientific poll, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one today online.

On this blog, readers were asked which non-Big Ten bowl would they like added to the Big Ten lineup. Overwhelmingly, readers chose the Cotton Bowl.

Forty-nine percent (213 votes) of the 435 votes cast picked the Dallas-area bowl. San Diego’s Holiday  Bowl finished second with 29 percent (128 votes). Others receiving votes include the Gator Bowl (10 percent) in Jacksonville, Fla., the Atlanta-based Peach Bowl (OK, so it’s called the Chick-fil-A Bowl) with 7 percent and Memphis’ Liberty Bowl (3 percent). The category “Other” also received 3 percent.

The Cotton Bowl has more tradition than any bowl outside of the Bowl Championship Series, crowning a national champion or dislodging the top-ranked team seven times. But it moved to also-ran status in 1995 with the Bowl Coalition and a year later with the break-up of the Southwest Conference. It now hosts the Big 12 runner-up against usually the SEC’s fourth-best team.

Five of the Big Ten’s seven bowl agreements expire after the upcoming football season, including contracts with the Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs and Motor City bowls. The Big Ten has four years left on its contracts with the Rose and Insight bowls.

The Cotton Bowl’s agreements with the SEC and Big 12 expire after the upcoming season as well. It’s unlikely the bowl ever will sever ties with the Big 12. The Big 12 includes four former Southwest Conference schools and the SWC champion anchored the bowl from 1941 through 1996.

The Cotton Bowl would like to rejoin college football’s top-tiered bowl games as a BCS member. The bowl is leaving its long-time venue in Dallas for a $1 billion palace with a retractable roof in Arlington this year. The open-air venue (which saw its share of frigid weather and snowstorms) was one reason why it was left out of the BCS nearly 15 years ago. (The other, some say, is athletic directors like playing golf in Phoenix with no chance of rain/snow rather than crossing their fingers and hoping for the best in Dallas.)

The league has expressed concern with Orlando’s stadium, which hosts the Capital One and Champs bowls. The Citrus Bowl is 73 years old and a $175 million renovation plan has fallen by the wayside during the current recession.

The Capital One Bowl boasts the highest payout of any non-BCS bowl at $4.25 million per team, while the Cotton Bowl pays around $3.3 million. But the Cotton Bowl features tradition and recruiting possibilities. It’s possible if the Cotton Bowl sweetens the pot near Capital One Bowl levels, the Big Ten might jump at moving its second-place team to Dallas against the Big 12’s No. 2 team. Some years, like last year, that might mean Texas Tech vs. Michigan State. Other years, that could pit Michigan vs. Oklahoma.

Coincidentally, only one Big Ten school has played in the Cotton Bowl. Ohio State beat Texas A&M 28-12 on Jan. 1, 1987.Penn State had played in three Cotton Bowls, but each appearance came before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.

The Holiday Bowl featured a Big Ten team from 1986 through 1994. Iowa played in three Holiday Bowls in that span, winning two games by a point each (39-38 against San Diego State; 20-19 against Wyoming) and tying Brigham Young 13-13 in the other. Iowa also has played in two Peach Bowls (a 28-22 win against Tennessee in 1982; a 28-23 loss to North Carolina State in 1988) and one Gator Bowl (a 14-6 loss in 1983 to Florida). Iowa never has played in the Liberty Bowl, which last hosted a Big Ten team in 1994. Illinois lost the 1982 Liberty Bowl 21-15 to Alabama featuring legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant in his final game.

Iowa nearly played in the 1986 Cotton Bowl, mainly because of then-Coach Hayden Fry’s relationship with bowl officials. Had Iowa lost its final game and not won the Big Ten title, Cotton Bowl officials planned to offer Iowa the slot against Texas A&M. Instead, Iowa beat Minnesota and claimed a Rose Bowl berth. The Cotton Bowl selected Auburn and its Heisman Trophy running back Bo Jackson.


Big Ten officials to assess bowl lineup

May 17, 2009
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz answers questions from the media during a press conference December 29, 2006 in San Antonio. Iowa and Texas played in the 2006 Alamo Bowl.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz answers questions from the media during a press conference December 29, 2006 in San Antonio. Iowa and Texas played in the 2006 Alamo Bowl.

CHICAGO — The Big Ten’s future bowl lineup could receive a radical — or reserved — makeover this week when league officials, administrators and football coaches conduct their annual meetings.

Five of the league’s seven contracted bowls are up for renewal following the 2009 season. League officials plan to discuss each bowl this week, and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said the league will “explore the (bowl) landscape.”

“We keep in touch with our incumbents,” Delany said. “We really can’t engage in negotiations with others normally under most of the agreements until we engage in good faith negotiations with the incumbents. We can look around, chit chat, find out if there are others that might be interested, but we can’t engage in any sort of serious discussion on business issues until we go through the process with our own.”

The Big Ten has agreements with the Rose Bowl and the Insight Bowl (Phoenix area) until 2013. Bowls up for renewal after the 2009 season include the Capital One and Champs Sports (Orlando, Fla.), Outback (Tampa, Fla.), Alamo (San Antonio) and Motor City (Detroit). The Big Ten’s champion automatically qualifies for the Bowl Championship Series, which includes the Rose Bowl. The league’s runner-up — if it does not qualify for a second BCS bowl — is designated for the Capital One Bowl. The Outback Bowl receives the third team, followed by either the Alamo Bowl or Champs Sports Bowl, then the Insight and Motor City bowls. Last year’s bowls totaled nearly $35 million in revenue for league schools.

The Big Ten last renegotiated bowl contracts in 2005 when it added the Champs and Insight bowls and dropped the Music City (Nashville, Tenn.) and Sun (El Paso, Texas) from its bowl lineup. Delany said at the time the league wanted to add destinations that cater to alumni, many of whom live in Arizona and Florida.

“I have to say we love our alignment,” Delany said. “It’s been good to us. We’ve adjusted from time to time, and even when we’ve adjusted in the past it’s always difficult.

“We never really had a bad bowl relationship. It’s just whether or not find better ones, whether you can improve your lot.”

The Big Ten became one of the first leagues to secure a tie-in for a non-champion when it sent its runner-up to the Holiday Bowl in 1986. The league ended that agreement in 1994, the same year it secured Capital One and Outback bowl agreements. The league began its relationship with the Alamo Bowl one year later.

The league’s contract with the Capital One Bowl earns the league nearly $4.25 million, the top payout among non-BCS bowl games. But Orlando’s 73-year-old stadium’s potential $175 million renovation has stalled, according to the Orlando Sentinel.  The paper reports a slowdown in tourism taxes have placed the project on that community’s back shelf for possibly 10 more years. The Champs Bowl also is played at the same stadium.

“The first thing the commissioners told me was ‘I thought you guys had approved renovation of the stadium. I don’t think you guys realize how important this is for us,'” Florida Citrus Sports chief executive officer Steve Hogan told the paper. ” … I didn’t expect to be shocked as I was about how pointed and concerned our existing sponsors are right now.”

 “We’ve been watching it for a long time,” Delany said. “We’ve been encouraging the city, the bowl, the Florida Citrus Association just to make progress, to move forward, because anybody that follows the college game, whether it’s in urban areas or on campus, facilities have been improving over the last 10, 15, 20 years. We’ve been encouraging that. That will be a factor. How big a factor? It’s to be determined.”

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Alamo Bowl continues climb to prominence

April 9, 2009
Iowa quarterback Drew Tate (5) congratulates  Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (12) following Iowa's 26-24 loss in the  Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, 2006 in San Antonio.

Iowa quarterback Drew Tate (5) congratulates Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (12) following Iowa's 26-24 loss in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

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.