As we mentioned on Wednesday, after this season, The American will lose its top 4 bowl tie-ins: BCS At-Large, Russell Athletic Bowl, Belk Bowl, and Pinstripe Bowl. The bowls in the next cycle will be lower profile locations.
The reasons are two-fold. First, it’s undeniable that the quality of the conference just took a big hit, with the losses of West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt, and the future departures of Rutgers and Louisville. These were the highest profile names in the conference with the largest fan bases. While in time the new teams in The American may approach the old Big East quality, as of now, it doesn't resonate with the bowl organizers.
The second reason is the near-total machination of the Power 5 conferences (ACC, B1G, Big XII, Pac-12, SEC) to play each other in bowl games, and to avoid playing teams from the Group of 5 (American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, SunBelt). They want their schools playing schools they view as having a similar prestige, and honestly we can’t blame them since that’s one of the marketing tools to get fans to attend the bowls.
For The American, this marginalization is exacerbated by the fact that most of the bowls are in the South or Southeast, and there are many higher-profile schools that share its territory (unlike the Mountain West, which was able to keep all its bowls from the previous cycle because there isn’t another game in town out west except the Pac-12 and MWC). And there are many schools from the Big XII and Big Ten that want to go someplace warm in the winter and visit the fertile recruiting grounds.
So, where does that leave The American? Presently, the higher tier bowls are still getting signed up by the larger conferences. We’ll sadly have to wait for those bowls to get settled before we see the trickle down leftovers closer to the bottom
Right now these are the bowls they have signed, or have started talks with, for the next cycle. The next cycle would be six years, to coincide with the first half of the 12-year rotation of the new College Football Playoff.
Premier Six Bowl – If a team from the American is the highest-rated team from the Group of 5, they would get an automatic bid from one of the six premier bowls: Sugar, Orange, Peach, Cotton, Rose, Fiesta.
BBVA Compass Bowl and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl – The American is in talks to retain these two bowls from the previous cycle.
Liberty Bowl – This isn't completely new, since the American/Big East has had a deal to back up the SEC and C-USA for this bowl during the present cycle. But with The American picking up the best teams from C-USA, it's also looking to pick up C-USA’s best bowl tie-in as well. This is a bowl with a long history, and would be a solid landing place for the conference. It would be even better if the SEC maintains its spot in this game, especially with the game taking place in Memphis with six SEC schools nearby (Arkansas, Vandy, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Ole Miss). And with the Memphis hosting the first AAC Basketball Tournament, it would be a nice one-two punch for the conference.
Military Bowl – The conference has already locked up a bid in the Military Bowl, to play an ACC foe. This year, the Military Bowl is moving to Navy’s stadium in Annapolis after previously taking place at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. While this is supposed to be a permanent move, personally, I’d like to see it return to D.C. But instead of RFK, why not Nationals Park? It's newer, fancier, and could totally host a football game.
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – You couldn’t get further from this conferences footprint and still be in the United States, but The American is in talks to rotate a tie-in with C-USA for a spot in the Hawaii. The eastern bid would play Hawaii if it has a winning record and isn’t the highest-rated Group of 5 team, or another team from the Mountain West. While it’s far for fans to travel, it’d be a nice reward for an American team to visit Hawaii in December.
New Orleans Bowl –the American is in talks with the New Orleans Bowl. This makes great sense with Tulane joining the conference next season. And New Orleans would be a great location for fans to visit in the winter, or really any time of year except now. No idea who the opponent would be but the current tie-ins are SunBelt and C-USA.
Something in Florida besides the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl – Since the B.O.B Bowl started, the Big East had two bowls in Florida, but with the loss of the Russell Athletic Bowl, the American is looking at other options. Per Greg Auman, the most prominent option is starting a new bowl at Marlins Park in Miami. The league has experience starting bowls in baseball parks (i.e. Pinstripe and International Bowls), and while the building is new, the location is the site of the old Orange Bowl, so there’s a smidgen of college football history there. The only snag is that the NCAA might not budge on the cap of 35 bowls. So either the NCAA would have to move off that stance to sanction the new bowl in Miami, or another bowl would have to move there.
Something in Texas – With two teams in Texas (Houston, SMU) and Tulsa and Tulane nearby, our more western conference mates would probably appreciate having a bowl in Texas. Auman says the league is looking at the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth. We’d only need one, and ideally the other bid in those games would be from the Big XII, but it would more likely come from C-USA
If the American were to get all of the above, it would have eight bowl tie-ins. Under the previous cycle, getting eight bowl tie-ins would be great, especially with 12 teams in the future. But there are a few externalities we’ll get into next week, and discuss why fewer tie-ins might behoove the league.