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SUNBELT Looking for 2nd Bowl Tie-In

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 PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:46 pm   
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SUNBELT Looking for 2nd Bowl Tie-In
Sun Belt looking for 2nd bowl tie-in
By ADAM SPARKS • sparks@dnj.com

Sun Belt football has always had one date to the end of the year dance. Twice, it has picked up a partner late.

But many conference members no longer want to rely on luck for an additional invitation, and so a second automatic bowl tie-in has become increasingly attractive.

The Sun Belt is the only FBS (formerly Division I-A) conference not to have multiple guaranteed bowl spots.

This year will be the eighth season the Sun Belt has been limited to only one bowl tie-in, the New Orleans Bowl. But recent bowl-eligible teams not playing in the postseason has raised frustrations.

Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters said it will be at least one more year before the league can enter the season with two bowl tie-ins.

"Those bowls get locked in by April 1, so we have between now and next April 1 to get something done," Waters said.

The Sun Belt only recently had a need for a second bowl tie-in. The league had just three bowl-eligible teams (six wins or more) not playing in bowls in the conference's first five seasons (2001-05) combined. But four bowl-eligible teams have missed out on playing in the postseason in the last two seasons.

For that reason, Waters said the problem is a relatively new one.

"We'd love to have (a second bowl tie-in), but you have to remember that we've only had these teams left out the last two years," Waters said. "We had no guarantee before that we could fill two bowl slots. Now that we have multiple teams bowl-eligible, it's something we're working on every day."

Discussions for the Sun Belt's possible second bowl tie-in have included the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, and Emerald Bowl in San Francisco — both of which offer no geographic link to Sun Belt schools, predominantly located in the southeast.

Waters said a Sun Belt school could miss a prime opportunity at a regional bowl if the conference signed a contract with any western bowls.

"What happens next year if the SEC gets two in the BCS, and it can't fill the (Papa John's Bowl) in Birmingham," Waters said. "If the SEC can't fill it, then who goes there? Well, if we have an available team, it would be a prime candidate to go there. But if that team is already going to another bowl outside the region, then it can't go to Birmingham."

The Sun Belt, along with at least four other conferences, has reportedly been trying to land a spot in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., which ends its contract with Conference USA and Mid-American Conference after the Jan. 6, 2009 game.

South Alabama, a Sun Belt member school located in Mobile, will begin its football program in 2009 and move to I-A status in 2013.

Most bowl contracts expire in the next two years, according to Waters. There will be 68 teams filling 34 bowls this season. Seventy-one teams were bowl-eligible last year.

MTSU was the last Sun Belt team to earn a second bowl berth, landing an at-large bid to the 2006 Motor City Bowl.

Last season, Florida Atlantic won the Sun Belt title and played in the New Orleans Bowl, while Troy, an 8-4 squad and arguably one of the best teams in league history, was left out of the bowl picture.

Waters hopes similar stories aren't retold in future bowl seasons for any conference. Waters is the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) vice president of the Football Bowl Subdivision, which is examining the fairest distribution of bowls and how to fill them in future seasons.

"You have a different number of bowl-eligible teams every year, so the problem is a moving target," Waters said. "The numbers are what they are, and every conference is looking at the problem."

BOWL BIDS

Conference

Bowl-eligible teams

Bowl tie-ins

Atlantic Coast 8 8

Big East 6 7

Big 12 8.5 8

Big 10 8 7

C-USA 6 7

Mid-American 4 3+

Sun Belt 3.5 1

Western Athletic 4 3

Mountain West 5 5

Pacific-10 7 8

Southeastern 9.5 9


Average in last two seasons (since 12-game schedule was adopted)



2008-09 bowl tie-ins

+ Additional partial tie-ins

Source: Wright Waters, Sun Belt commissioner/vice president of Collegiate Commissioners Association


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