Fastest Growing Bowl Game Could Face Big Change In Big 12 Selection

By Gregory Moore
Updated: July 15, 2005

The 2005 bowl chairman is Joe Linson. Linson may be the first African American selected to chair a major college bowl game.

The 2005 bowl chairman is Joe Linson. Linson may be the first African American selected to chair a major college bowl game.

SAN ANTONIO — Not wanting to sound pessimistic but the MasterCard Alamo Bowl is going to be looking for a new sponsor after the 2005 if the Big 12 Conference does something that it says is in the ‘betterment’ of all the teams involved. Alamo Bowl higher ups are hoping that these changes do not degrade their product to a point where the game could be in jeopardy of not even existing. In other words there is a real threat right now coming from the conference and it affects who the Alamo Bowl gets as their participants and it also affects sponsorship because the conference could be asking for the same payouts for an “inferior” product.

To understand why this is so important to the San Antonio landscape, one has to understand how the Alamo Bowl game gets it’s participants and the kind of storylines that come from such selections. The Alamo Bowl selects the fourth best teams out of the Big 12 and Big 10 conferences. In years past this selection process has brought San Antonio and the nation Top 25 programs from BOTH conferences. Last year, the bowl had #22 Ohio State playing against Oklahoma State and the nation swathe emergence of Ted Ginn, Jr. as one of the premiere running backs in college football. This year, Ohio State will play Texas in a regular season game and now Texas fans have an idea of what Ginn is capable of as a back. That bowl game also provided the backdrop for when Oklahoma State’s head coach, Les Miles, coached his last game as their head coach. Miles is now the head coach of LSU, taking over for Nick Saban; Saban is now the head coach of the NFL team, the Miami Dolphins.

As for the Big 12 conference, what they are looking to do is help the ACC in making sure that there are no repeat performances at the Gator and Sun Bowls. Now how does this impact the Alamo Bowl? Here is a portion of the news story as found on CBS Sportsline: The Big East, Big 12 and Notre Dame would alternate bids to the Gator Bowl and the Sun Bowl over a four-year period starting in 2006, according to a new agreement nearing approval.

The four-year deal, which is pending the approval of the Big 12, will give the Jacksonville-based Gator Bowl the option of taking the Big East’s No. 2 team or the Big 12’s No. 3 team. The agreement is scheduled to begin with the 2007 Gator Bowl, following the 2006 regular season.

You will want to read the entire story to get an idea of why they are doing that but I let me help everyone in saying basically what the Big 12, the ACC and Notre Dame (yes, Notre Dame) is trying to do is to avoid having a team make consecuitive bowl appearances. That was very much evident with the University of Texas being at the Holiday Bowl three of the last four years. But here is how this announcement impacts a bowl game that has been one of ESPN’s highest rated programs during that broadcast date? It has everything to do with how the Big 12 aligns it self with bowl appearances. Here is the breakdown of which Big 12 teams go to which bowl games: Conference champs -BCS bowl (based on BCS rank), the Cotton Bowl takes the #2 team, the Holiday Bowl takes the #3 team, the Alamo Bowl takes the #4 team, the Independence takes the #5 team, the Houston, Tangerine and Ft. Worth bowls take teams ranked 6-8 respectively. Keep in mind that to be eligible for a bowl game under NCAA guidelines, a team has to have won SIX games.

Sounds simple enough, right? Okay but what if we use the new system that they are looking at to cut down on seeing the same team at the same bowl back to back or on a repetitive basis? For example, what if the Texas Tech Red Raiders, who were the #3 team in the Big 12 (overall standings), goes back to the Holiday Bowl this year? According to these new rules that the Big 12 and ACC want to put in place, the Gator Bowl could take the Red Raiders. Now that would leave a void and would force everyone else to “slide” up one slot. That would mean that the Holiday Bowl could select a team that Alamo Bowl crew was looking at and the bowl could potentially pick a team that may not travel just as well or not be a “crowd” pleaser. In being realistic about the situation, the top four teams in the Big 12 USUALLY are the top teams in the conference with many of them being in the Top 25. If the Holiday Bowl selected the Alamo Bowl’s #4 because the Red Raiders would have become repeat performers, and the Red Raiders are on their way to Jacksonville, then that would mean that the Alamo Bowl would have to take the #5 team; something that may not work out. It definitely wouldn’t work since that under this agreement, the Cotton Bowl’s pick would take precedence in this scenario.

The MasterCard Alamo Bowl game has given the nation such classic match ups as Nebraska vs. Michigan State, as this 2003 media guide cover shows. The bowl selects the #4 teams from the Big 12 and Big 10 conferences.

The MasterCard Alamo Bowl game has given the nation such classic match ups as Nebraska vs. Michigan State, as this 2003 media guide cover shows. The bowl selects the #4 teams from the Big 12 and Big 10 conferences.

That is the danger that faces this bowl. It’s a danger because that very scenario could happen and you would have bowl selection committees scrambling. Sponsors like MasterCard wouldn’t like that because they do not want to pay for a “inferior” product. It may sound harsh but in the sports business world, these are the realities. When MasterCard is shelling out $3.5 million in team payout (each team gets $1.75 million) and is probably shelling out another $3 to $4.5 million in broadcasting fees, sponsorship of events, educational scholarship funds, etc., they want the #4 team of the Big 12; that is what they signed on the dotted line for. But if the Big 12 endorses this new plan without giving the Alamo Bowl a “backdoor” to an equal team for it’s selection, MasterCard could be on the way out the door after the 2005 game.

The numbers are gaudy because not many sports fans understand the ramifications I just outlined. As a matter of fact not too many business, civic and political leaders in San Antonio understand the ramifications I just drew out. Right now, “America’s fastest growing bowl game” needs to be saved from an untimely demise not of it’s own creation but that of a conference where a couple of schools are actually dictating this movement because of how their teams are playing each year. My rationale in this whole deal is that the University of Texas is dictating the stance because of their repeated appearances to the Holiday Bowl. The Big 12 commissioner has pretty much said so.

“Texas just finished playing in the Holiday Bowl for the third time in four years and we had West Virginia back-to-back, and it’s just nuts to do that,” Rick Catlett, the Big 12 commissioner said. “It’s an attempt to put new teams in and to create match-ups beneficial to the games and for the fans.”

2005 Bowl Chairman, Joe Linson, told me that this is a major concern of his because he wants to leave his one-year post making sure that his successor knows that the bowl is in good, financial shape. Linson is probably the first African American bowl chairman in the country. The Dallas native and business owner knows that it is important for this bowl to continue and it is on his watch that everyone will be judging whether or not he has done a good job as the chairman for this year’s bowl game.

As remote as this could be, the reality is that the Alamo Bowl has enjoyed title sponsorship stability over the past several years; first from Sylvannia and now from MasterCard. If we are forced to take on a lesser role, that could jeopardize our relationship with MasterCard and they could go elsewhere. That is something that we want to avoid.

Linson and the Alamo Bowl board are currently looking at ways to make sure that this worse case scenario does not come into play. Their work is definitely cut out for them even though this is only July. However the track record of this bowl game is outstanding and that could be very beneficial in whatever negotiations that they may have to work on with MasterCard and/or the Big 12. Hopefully the Big 12 commissioner will help the Alamo Bowl maintain it’s standing in the bowl community as being one of the best Tier 2 bowls in the country. If anything, maybe the Big 12 could help lure a team like Notre Dame to come play in this bowl game and add to the allure of this game’s illustrious pageantry and history.