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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

April 29, 2014 at 4:06 PM

Four more bowls (not that we’re counting), and could one work in Seattle?

Well, the news hit the inbox Tuesday morning: BYU has already lined up its bowl game for 2014 – the Miami Beach Bowl.

The what? Yes, the Miami Beach Bowl is one of four new bowls in 2014 – at least it will be if it gets through the NCAA certification process next week. That’s a formality, and it will be joined by bowls in Boca Raton, Fla., the Bahamas (I’ll consider Larry Scott’s tenure as Pac-12 commissioner an unqualified success if he can link up the Pac-12 there) and Montgomery, Ala.

The ones in Miami Beach, Boca Raton and the Bahamas are part of a unique coalition of five smaller conferences (Mountain West, Sun Belt, MAC, American and Conference USA) that will work together to determine the teams.

So, pending the certification process, this would make 39 bowls for 2014, and I think we’re safe in saying that’s too many – if only from the standpoint that it’s unlikely enough teams from the 124-or-so Football Bowl Subdivision can qualify by winning six games or going .500.

“We’re probably going to end up with a situation where we don’t have enough teams,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told CBSSports.com.

Already, Nevada-Las Vegas has incurred a 2014 bowl ban for an APR shortfall, and so has Idaho (have to admit, the Idaho team I saw lose to WSU 42-0 last fall didn’t appear bowl-bound anytime soon).

If not enough teams qualify, rest assured the NCAA will grant waivers to squeeze in some stragglers. Bowl organizers aren’t going to do the year-round planning thing, with certification from the NCAA, only to find out they don’t have teams coming.

So, you’re thinking . . .  why not a 40th bowl? Yes, in Seattle.

Ralph Morton, executive director of the Seattle Sports Commission, told me recently that his group “has had some conversations again about that,” but added that there’s nothing currently on the front burner.

“If we’re going to do something here,” Morton said, “it should be a first-class event.”

Amen. The defunct Seattle Bowl, which died an unlamented death after a two-year run from in 2001 and 2002, was anything but first-class. A few years later, a California promoter showed up with a grand vision to restart the game, calling it the Emerald Bowl, but that name was already taken in the Bay Area, and that was the least of the problems. He, and it, never panned out.

It’s questionable whether this campaign, if you want to call it that, would, either, for the simple reason that 2014 begins a six-year cycle of Pac-12 bowl agreements, and there doesn’t appear to be anything available until that stretch runs out. Here’s the menu starting this season for Pac-12 teams:

  1. College football playoff/Rose Bowl.
  2. Alamo vs. Big 12.
  3. Holiday vs. Big Ten.
  4. Fight Hunger vs. Big Ten.
  5. Sun vs. ACC.
  6. Las Vegas vs. Mountain West.
  7. Buffalo Wild Wings (Tempe) vs. Big 12.

That means that if a Pac-12 team crashes the new four-team playoff for the title, there could be eight teams spoken for, and you don’t have to be Brent Musburger to realize that Seattle isn’t going to be very amped up over a No. 8 or 9 Pac-12 team.

Bowl organizers prize three factors in making it work: Team (conference)  affiliations, title sponsor and television. Title sponsors are getting tough to come by, so bowls are increasingly pairing up with NFL teams to help; the Fight Hunger Bowl is working with the 49ers (and thus able to avail itself of its marketing resources) in locating one, and will move from the Giants baseball park to the new Levi’s Stadium this year.

Matter of fact, if Seattle is ever going to get back into the bowl business, there would be lessons to be learned from the Fight Hunger. That’s a bowl in an area far less wowed by college football than ours, and it’s moved up into fourth in the Pac-12’s bowl lineup, with a Big Ten team coming in ’14.

Meanwhile, says Morton, “There’s kind of an emphasis on our part to see if we can bring a special-matchup football game to Seattle. We still believe Seattle would be a nice place to host a Pac-12 football championship at some point. (But) it’s not something that’s right now in the mix.”

Indeed, all things being equal, CenturyLink Field would be a logical place to host if the league ever went to neutral sites. As in, if you had the worst-case-scenario of a non-Northwest team winning the Pac-12 North (say, Stanford) as the closest geographical representative, where in the league might you stand the best chance of drawing non-partisan fans? It might not be overwhelming here, but it certainly would be better than in any of the  Pac-12’s other metro markets. (On the other hand, Levi’s Stadium, the new 49ers digs, would be a “halfway point” if a Northwest team won the North.)

For now, the league is committed to playing on home fields. But a Pac-12 spokesman said Tuesday that stance could be changed at any time. That might mean it’s up to Seattle to put a good enough bid to the league to make it think twice.

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