10 Cities That Should Host a College Football Bowl Game
When it comes to college football bowl games, it is really an all-or-nothing mentality. You either feel there's too many, or not enough.
For those who think the number of bowls—which balloons to a record 39 this year, thanks to four new games and the championship of the inaugural College Football Playoff—far exceeds what seems reasonable, we've got some news for you: too bad, because they're not going away anytime soon.
For those who feel there are not enough bowls, well, you're in luck. There are more coming, as the Cure Bowl in Orlando is set to debut in 2015, and several other proposed games could be added next year or soon thereafter.
But why stop there? Why can't it be like Oprah Winfrey is handling the bowl season, throwing out games and game invites here and there? "You get a bowl game! You get a bowl game! Everyone gets a bowl game!"
Not enough 6-6 teams? Heck, let them all in! Who says the bowl games have to all pit great teams against each other? Those goodie bags that players receive from the various bowls could count toward whatever compensation college players might someday receiver for their services, with the cost of those items coming out of the massive heaps of TV profits collected by FBS football programs.
Truth be told, a system that in its current state will send nearly 60 percent of its teams into the postseason is far beyond one that is intended only to reward the best of the best. So with that in mind, we have identified 10 cities that would be a great place to throw yet another bowl game onto the schedule.
Total population: 4.5 million
Possible stadium venue: Gillette Stadium (68,576)
Working bowl title: Patriot Bowl
They love their football in New England, though the passion is far more evident for the professional game than college.
So why not merge the two together?
Play a game featuring two solid college programs—hopefully featuring a few promising pro prospects—in the home of the NFL's most successful franchise over the past 15 years?
It would help if the game could somehow wrangle an affiliation with one or two of the conferences that have teams closest to the area. The ACC would be ideal, because then it would allow for the chance to get Boston College or even Syracuse to play close to home, though Syracuse's de facto "home" bowl game would be the Pinstripe Bowl in the Bronx.
If Bob Diaco gets Connecticut back on track, the Huskies would likely draw well for fans who would only have to drive a little less than 100 miles to get to Gillette Stadium. Massachusetts is another nice option, but considering how poorly the Minutemen have fared in their first two seasons of FBS play (back-to-back 1-11 records) they might not be in the mix for a while.
Columbia, South Carolina
Total population: 130,000
Possible stadium venue: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Working bowl title: Palmetto Bowl
The state with the best overall collection of college football programs deserves to be rewarded with a bowl game, even if the likelihood that one of its own teams would play in it is slim.
South Carolina would be a great destination for fans of other college teams, especially those who want their bowl trip to be much more than just a relatively meaningless end-of-the-season game. The tourism in the Palmetto State is very underrated, but offers numerous options for visitors, including golf, a great coastline not far from Columbia and plenty of history.
Get into town a few days before the game? Then check out the many attractions related to Columbia's role in the Civil War, including the path General Sherman took on his way into the city before decimating it.
While Clemson and South Carolina both annually battle for high-level bowl games, this city is still worthy of a matchup between power conference teams. The ACC and SEC would make sense, with the SEC entrant relishing the opportunity to actually have a fighting chance to win a game in Williams-Brice Stadium.
Total population: 650,000
Possible stadium venue: Sports Authority Field
Working bowl title: Mile High Bowl
If a bowl game can be played outdoors in Boise in December, then all bets are off when it comes to searching for venues and climate. This is not the NFL, where having last year's Super Bowl in New Jersey turned weather into as much of a story as the game itself.
Denver does not have a college football team, but it regularly hosts the annual rivalry game between Rocky Mountain schools Colorado and Colorado State. The game drew more than 59,000 fans last Labor Day weekend, so there is a healthy interest in the college game in this pro sports town.
There is one thing to consider when setting potential pairings, though. With Denver's elevation sitting at more than 5,200 feet—hence its nickname as the "Mile High City"—it would not be fair to pit a mountain-region team against a lowland opponent because of the adjustment the latter team would need to make to playing at such an altitude.
Unless that was intended to level the playing field for a team from the Mountain West (Air Force, Colorado State or Wyoming, anyone?) against a power opponent. Maybe a Big 12 foe, someone that is more used to playing on flat land?
Fargo, North Dakota
Total population: 114,000
Possible stadium venue: Fargodome (19,000)
Working bowl title: Black Gold Bowl
Fargo does not have an FBS program, but it has the kind of love for college football you'd find at that level. It helps that the hometown team, North Dakota State, has won three consecutive FCS national titles.
Everything is booming in the Dakotas, and not just the football. The recent oil discovery that has caused the region's economy to explode, combined with how the locals support their Bison, would make the small-but-loud Fargodome a great place for a bowl featuring a pair of mid-level programs.
The Sun Belt seems like a perfect partner for this game, seeing as the league's name has been rendered meaningless (just like the Big Ten and Big 12) because of the inclusion of Idaho and New Mexico State in its ranks. But there are passionate fanbases in that conference still, and someone like South Alabama or Texas State, both of whom did not make a bowl game last year despite going 6-6, would probably jump at the chance to head north to play (indoors, mind you) against someone like Central Michigan.
Total population: 64,000
Possible stadium venue: Bermuda National Stadium (10,000)
Working bowl title: Bermuda Bowl
If the Bahamas get a bowl game, then all island venues are on the table.
The inaugural Bahamas Bowl is set to kick off this winter, a Christmas Eve tilt between teams from Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference. They will play in a 15,000-seat multi-purpose stadium that is mostly used for track but has also hosted international soccer matches.
That is pretty much the same scenario that would be used for a game in Hamilton, the tiny capital of Bermuda, a small island off the Atlantic Coast due east of South Carolina. The home of Bermuda's national soccer team only holds 10,000 people. However, with just 64,000 people living on the island, you wouldn't need much more for a game that would probably get similar teams that won't have large travel groups.
Bermuda, for those not familiar with the British possession, is a popular cruise ship destination. How sweet would it be if the teams traveled by cruise liner from New York City or Florida and had the game serve as one of the excursions on the voyage?
Total population: 45,989
Possible stadium venue: M.M. Roberts Stadium (36,000)
Working bowl title: Gulf Bowl
Quick, what is the first thing you think of when someone says Hattiesburg? If you say that is the city where Brett Favre (shown above) played his college ball, you win a nonexistent prize!
Aside from that, Hattiesburg is like most Southern cities in that it loves college football. Like Birmingham or Mobile, Alabama that also host bowl games, this city in southern Mississippi would welcome with open arms the chance to have a couple of lower-tier programs come in and play a game in mid-December or early January.
The locals were once graced with annual strong play from Southern Mississippi, where Favre played from 1987-1990. The Golden Eagles played in a bowl game for 10 years straight (2002-2011) and served as the launching point for current North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, but then went on a 23-game losing streak before winning the final game of the 2013 season.
Total population: 400,000
Possible stadium venue: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
Working bowl title: Polar Bowl
Minneapolis is bearing witness to the construction of what should prove to be a splendid new domed stadium for the NFL Minnesota Vikings. The fixed-roof facility is set to open in 2016, and it was recently selected to host the Super Bowl in 2018.
Until then, the Vikings will play in TCF Bank Stadium, a five-year-old outdoor facility built for Minnesota's college football team. Games there have been well-attended and enjoyed, even in the bitter cold of November...so why not have another contest there in the even colder temperatures found around the turn of the calendar?
The Big Ten schools are used to playing in those conditions, but they probably would prefer not to have to stay in the Midwest for a bowl. That leaves the door wide open for the Mid-American Conference to jump in for a spot, much like they do with the bowl held each year in Detroit. The MAC is also willing to play in bitter cold, as evidenced by its affiliation with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.
Total population: 225,000
Possible stadium venue: Mackay Stadium (30,000)
Working bowl title: The Biggest Little Bowl Game in the World
Reno is a popular gambling destination, just like the more well-known Nevada city of Las Vegas. Where the two differ vastly, though, is their draw for sporting events.
Las Vegas hosts several college basketball tournaments, has been the site of the NBA All-Star game and since the early 1990s has held a bowl game at UNLV's Sam Boyd Stadium. Reno has University of Nevada athletics, recently got a minor-league baseball team and is home to the National Bowling Stadium.
The community known as "The Biggest Little City In The World" is enough of a tourist spot that it can handle a bowl game during the holidays as well. We are not talking a big game, involving big-time programs, but maybe a Mountain West school and someone from Conference USA or the Sun Belt. Any of those schools would love to get a trip that involves breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Total population: 400,000
Possible stadium venue: Hiram Bithorn Stadium (18,000)
Working bowl title: Territorial Bowl
There have been pushes in the past to make Puerto Rico an official U.S. state, but the island in the Caribbean remains an unofficial American territory that draws from the cultures of many nations around it as well as from the United States. Baseball is very popular there, with Major League Baseball holding games there in the past. Hiram Bithorn Stadium has plenty of space to fit a football field.
A Puerto Rico bowl game could form a loose affiliation with the Bahamas Bowl (as well as our proposed Bermuda Bowl) to form an Island Bowl Game Coalition that rotates the conferences and teams who participate each year. The exotic locale and warm weather would be enticing for most programs, regardless of the costs associated with the trip.
While Florida Atlantic has a bowl game in its own stadium (the new-to-the-lineup Boca Raton Bowl), fellow south Florida Conference USA team Florida International does not. If the Golden Panthers were to improve their program enough to become bowl-eligible, a jaunt down to San Juan would be a nice reward.
Total population: 520,000
Possible stadium venue: Arizona Stadium (56,000)
Working bowl title: Snowbird Bowl
Of all our proposed bowl locations, only Tucson has previously served as a bowl host. Arizona Stadium was the site of the Copper Bowl from 1989-1996, then it hosted the Insight.com Bowl for three years before that game moved to Phoenix. It is now known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and it is played at Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
Tucson hates losing anything to Phoenix, especially when it involves ASU, as the rivalry with Arizona extends deep. But Tucson has a strong advantage over Phoenix in its winter visitors, particularly those who are semi-retired and set up camp in the region for several months as part-time residents. Many of those people come from the Midwest and other places where it is very cold in the winter, and a lot of them happen to be fans of schools from that region.
It is why Tucson's first bowl tried its best to be aligned with conferences that had cold-weather teams, though Indiana in 1991 was the only Big Ten school to participate in the game. With the Big Ten dropping its affiliation with the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl this year, the time is right to bring that league down to Tucson and give its teams' fans a chance to check out a potential place to move to during future winters.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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