Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Houston Bowl gets flushed?

The six-year-old Houston Bowl's odds of survival are very slim. Unless a title sponsor rides in at the last minute to save the day, which isn't likely, the cash-strapped college football game will go the way of the Bluebonnet Bowl before it and shut down.

On one hand, it's unfortunate. Reliant Stadium is a great venue for a post-season bowl and Houston should be large enough to support one. I went to a couple of games and had a good time.

On the other hand, the game was another lower-tier bowl in an environment already cluttered with postseason bowl games. It didn't help that the bowl was usually played in the afternoon during the work week, which made it difficult for people to show up and, with the exception of a couple of games that attracted crowds of over 50 thousand, attendance was poor. The bowl was close to the bottom of the pecking order as far as its conference tie-ins were concerned; in fact, for the three years the game was affiliated with the Southeastern Conference, the bowl had to look elsewhere for teams to invite because the SEC never had enough bowl-eligible teams to fill its Houston Bowl slot.

In fact, the bowl's low tie-in position with the Big 12 Conference is probably what doomed it. A person who is close to the Houston Bowl situation reports the following on this CoogFans thread:

Here are the facts,

The Bowl went into negotiations to move up in the Big 12 picture. They put a proposal that would have had them jump the Alamo Bowl. Big 12 #4 was the goal.

The Bowl folks were led to believe that they would have a very good shot at moving up. Then, from nowhere, the Big 12 jumped in and took the Sun Bowl and Gator Bowl combo and told the Houston Bowl could have Ft Worth's slot. Ft Worth would get the Champps spot.

At that point, the sponsor wasn't much interested waiting 3 years to try again. The bowl folks have been trying to find a major title sponsor with little success.

Indeed, it's really difficult for a sponsor - or fans, for that matter - to get excited about an afternoon midweek bowl game which would likely feature a couple of mediocre teams. As long as the Big 12 tie-in is somebody with a lot of local support like Texas A&M or Texas Tech, that might not be a problem. But considering that the bowl's other tie-in is now with the Big East or Conference USA, could you imagine some of the other possible matchups?

6-6 Missouri against 7-5 Syracuse
7-5 Colorado against 6-6 Alabama-Birmingham
6-6 Kansas against 8-4 Rutgers
7-5 Iowa State against 7-5 Marshall

You get the point: these are games few Houstonians, if any, would want to take an afternoon off of work to go see. Nor are they games that will generate big ratings for ESPN.

The NCAA will be recertifying bowl games for the 2006 postseason next week. Right now, things aren't looking good for the Houston Bowl.

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