Aug 21, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Marshall never has played a football game in the Bahamas. Starting next season, the Herd could be thundering to Nassau.
With the advent of the College Football Playoff after this final season with the BCS, the bowl structure is changing. Conference USA will have some new bowl destinations for the six seasons from 2014-19.
The conference has announced agreements with the Beef ‘O’Brady’s, Sheraton Hawaii, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces, Heart of Dallas, Gildan New Mexico and R+L Carriers New Orleans bowls.
In the coming weeks, C-USA is expected to announce six-year deals for bowl games in Boca Raton, Fla. – at the home stadium of new member FAU – and the Bahamas.
C-USA is guaranteed six bowl berths annually, and there’s the potential for at least a seventh, since the conference will announce a secondary agreement with the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., -- regularly an ACC-SEC matchup.
“We’re excited about our bowl future,” said Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, who presented the C-USA bowls report to conference university presidents at last week’s league meetings. “There’s a lot to like.
“One, they are great destinations … Bahamas, Boca Raton, Hawaii, New Orleans, Tampa-St. Petersburg (Fla.), the Dallas area (bowls in Dallas and Fort Worth), Albuquerque. So, our fans can get there, and when they get there, there will be plenty for them to do.
“Two, I think we have a very, very adequate number of bowl games, six and possibly a seventh (for a 14-team conference). And I think there are some spots that other conferences have that might not be filled that we can get a spot now and then.
“Third, the financial bowl plan that our conference has adopted assures us – if we sell a minimal amount of tickets – that we will never lose money going to a bowl game. A Conference USA school going to a bowl keeps the first $100,000 of the revenue from tickets it sells.”
In C-USA, the programs that make the postseason also receive money from a bowl distribution pot, in addition to an expenses line item based upon the travel party number.
For example, the Herd’s take for ticket sales, expenses and bowl distribution from the 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl was $468,201. The five C-USA teams that went to the postseason that year received a bowl distribution of $339,787. The seven that stayed home landed $99,937 apiece.
The Herd showed a $54,000 profit on that bowl trip, underscoring Hamrick’s remark on the C-USA teams’ ability to go to a bowl without losing money.
The two bowls that have their final year with C-USA this season are the Liberty – home to the C-USA champion since the league’s inception in 1996 – and the Military Bowl, which is moving from RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., to Annapolis, Md., and Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
I’m told by sources in the conference that it’s possible that C-USA may not have a designated bowl for its champion starting in 2014, but might let the league titlist annually pick which of the C-USA bowls it wants to attend.
Russ Anderson, C-USA’s assistant commissioner for football, said the conference will have a guaranteed four berths annually among the bowls in Albuquerque, New Orleans, Fort Worth, Dallas, St. Petersburg and Honolulu.
C-USA will send a team to the New Mexico and New Orleans bowls in each of the six years in the cycle. The Boca Raton and Bahamas bowls also will have C-USA in their pairings annually.
A Conference USA team will then play in the Dallas or Fort Worth bowl every year, and play in Hawaii or St. Petersburg every year to get to the six guaranteed spots.
The foe in New Orleans will be from the Sun Belt Conference, with the Mountain West going to New Mexico to face C-USA.
The to-be-announced Bahamas Bowl foe is expected to be the Mid-American Conference. Marshall and Ohio already have played one bowl date in Detroit (2009). Now, how about the Battle for the Bell in the Bahamas, huh?
The Boca Raton bowl opposition for C-USA will be provided by some combination from the Mountain West, American or MAC.
The others, depending on the year or the matchups in other bowls – the next cycle will have much more flexibility in agreements than the current deals – the C-USA opponent could be from the ACC, American, Big 12, Big Ten or Mountain West (varying from year to year), Anderson said.
Previous reports have the Mountain West in Hawaii, the ACC or AAC in St. Pete, and the Big Ten or Big 12 in Heart of Dallas and/or Forth Worth.
The bowl game in the Bahamas would be played at Thomas Robinson Stadium, a 15,000-seat facility that can be expanded to a capacity of 30,000. It would be the first bowl game between U.S. major college teams outside the nation since the short-lived international Bowl in Toronto (2007-10).
Prior to that, there was one Bacardi Bowl, in Havana, Cuba, a 7-7 tie between Auburn and Villanova on New Year’s Day 1937.