Bowl-ling for Dollars
why doesn’t the Valley get in on the post-season college football action?
Did you feel as though in late December and early January, at least a couple college football bowl games were being played on a given day? Bowls have popped-up in Montgomery, Ala., and a baseball-only domed stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., and if your team had a winning record, you had a chance to go. When you consider how schools tend to make money and get plenty of national television exposure on ESPN, you understand how one team that fired its coach (Houston) plays a team considered in disarray (Pittsburgh) in a bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. This is actually considered an honor.
A record 38 bowl games were played this season, not counting the actual College Football National Championship on Jan. 12, or any of the post-postseason all-star games. While the trend in upstart bowls has been to play games in climates where colder-weather programs would want to travel over Christmas break – note the matches this year in Miami Beach and Boca Raton, Fla., and Nassau – any group of civic-minded boosters with a chunk of change to hand over to the participants seems to have a fair shot at making a bowl. No matter if the bowl is played where the temp is likely not much different from Wisconsin in late December.
If the college football scene is going to add bowl games each year, and teams are going to keep playing in said games, how about we in western Wisconsin get a piece of the action? If Boise, Idaho, and New York can host outdoor bowl games, is Eau Claire demonstrably worse weather-wise? I say, let us make our own bowl, right here in the Chippewa Valley.
If the college football scene is going to add bowl games each year, and teams are going to keep playing in said games, how about we in western Wisconsin get a piece of the action?
The first issue is the name. Two components are at play here: a corporate sponsor and something characteristic of the area. In the latter case, the easy way out is the “Eau Claire Bowl,” but we might want to pass, since I can already hear a G-level ESPN play-by-play announcer introduce the game as “Welcome to frigid WESS-consin and the YOU-Claire Bowl!” We’ll keep it easy on these guys – there’s a decent chance the network would own part of the bowl itself.
“Clear Water Bowl” is already taken by the Blugolds. Lumber Bowl, Tundra Bowl – good possibilities, but I say we stick with the food theme we see in some games (Orange, Sugar, Citrus), and put our stamp on Wisconsin: the Cheese Bowl. The trophy would be a big wheel of Gouda. As for a sponsor – that’s for other folks to figure out, but one can imagine a local business getting onboard. Plus, it need not be nationally known; witness the rolls-off-the-tongue San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The national network will be contractually obligated to say the full name, and perhaps even correctly.
Now, who do we invite? Even though NCAA rules require a winning record, there is room for 5-7 teams if not enough .500-and-over squads exist. With our bowl probably being the 49th by the time we get it going, there is a good possibility of us taking someone with a losing record. Forget about a Big Ten team, even though they sent 10 of 14 to bowls this past season; we need to focus on the “happy to be there” schools that want to be on TV. Our spots will be offered to the eight-place Mountain West Conference finisher and the ninth-place school from Mid-American Conference. If they turn it down, inevitably some other school will step up.
Get Carson Park ready for a fun game on Dec. 20 or so, and sell tickets to the 25 fans that make the trip from Norfolk, Va., and Mount Pleasant, Mich. Raise about $250,000 for payouts, set up a satellite truck, and we’re good. Then brace yourself for the snarky Web articles along the lines of “Did you hear there are now FORTY-NINE bowl games and one of them is in arctic Wisconsin?”
Our city has momentum. The downtown is growing, the County Materials Event and Recreation Complex will happen along Menomonie Street, and the Blugolds feel like they could become a powerhouse athletic program. I’m telling ya, a bowl game is the next logical step. Come visit, smaller-scale national college football teams! And remember, it’s pronounced “OH-Claire.”