As we all know, the feature of college football that makes it so unique is its post season; specifically the bowl games. I love the bowl games. You love the bowl games; or at least I think you do. You do love the bowl games right? Schools definitely love the bowl system. If they didn't we would have had a college football playoff ages ago. Bowls provide a way for more than half of the Division 1 schools to participate in the post season. But I'm getting ahead of myself; this isn't a "we want playoffs" or "death to the BCS" post. It's a, "what if BYU started its own bowl?" post.
I'm no expert on starting a bowl, becoming certified, or any other technical and legal issues associated with bowl games, but I do know one thing; that money makes the college football world go round. (Unless of course you're a good, rule following student athlete. The only check they're cashing is for their full ride scholarship. Although Cam Newton and the entire Ohio State football team don't know rules exist.) I also know this: the NCAA recently put a three year hold on any new bowl games because of the Fiesta Bowl's problems. I urge you to keep in mind that I'm no expert as you read. If I say anything overly stupid or incorrect-or if you simply disagree with me-tell me in the comments below.
I have thought about our BYU Cougars starting their own bowl several times the past few years and every time I mention it people think I'm crazy. Now they're probably right but why can't we start and/or host a bowl? Boise State, New Mexico, UTEP, and many other small mid-major schools do. We have a larger stadium, we're located in a larger market, and our fan base travels well. That's more than you can say about any of those teams.
The first issue to think about, if BYU decides to start its own bowl rather than teaming up with a bowl trying to receive certification, is a name for the bowl. A couple of names out there are the "BYU Bowl" and the "Cougar Classic." Personally I would pick the "Cougar Classic" over "BYU Bowl" any day. Some other names I thought of are "Provo Bowl," "Mormon Bowl," "Deseret Bowl," "Bonneville Bowl," and "Rocky Mountain Bowl" along with the prototypical "(Sponsor name here) Bowl." Unless there's a great deal of fan support for it the "Mormon Bowl" is probably out. That is, of course, if the LDS Church doesn't decide to sponsor it and use the "(Sponsor name here) Bowl" format. Of the remaining names my favorites are "Cougar Classic" and "Bonneville Bowl" because of the alliteration, "Provo Bowl" just because I like it, and "Rocky Mountain Bowl."
Now that we have the name down (kind of) we can move on to the next concern. This issue, which I alluded to above, is whether they want to start a brand new bowl from scratch or team up with a bowl waiting for certification. Teaming up with a pending bowl is the much easier rout. They don't have to worry about finding a sponsor, working out tv deals, becoming certified, or many of the other legal/technical issues I don't know much about.
Some aspects they would take into consideration when deciding on starting verses aligning are location, opponent (probably to a lesser degree at first), date the game is to be played, among others I can't think of right now.
Location would be a major point of interest. On one hand the school doesn't want to travel too far, but on the other hand they want to receive more exposure and expand the recruiting base. I also heard something about bowls being a tourist destination for teams and fans but I doubt this would be a decision changer. A couple ideal locations that optimize travel distance and recruiting (as well as tourism) would be Texas and Southern California. Both are relatively close and recruiting hot beds. (On a side note imagine getting a tie in to the Cotton Bowl and playing in Jerry's House every year.)
Although it may not seem like a big deal, the date of the game could be problematic; especially for BYU. You see, we have a strict no games on Sunday rule that could hamper bowl negotiations. If we set a date every year that date will fall on a Sunday eventually. One solution to this would be to have a backup date, in case the original date fell on Sunday. This could also be problematic, though, because of tv scheduling. Although with ESPN at our backs it shouldn't be that big a deal.
The final issue (that I could think of) in the starting a bowl vs. aligning with a bowl debate is our opponent. We don't want to be playing the "Little Sisters of the Poor" every year. And we don't want to be playing "Little Brothers" either. (Mediocre at best major conference teams.) We want to play teams that will give us exposure and prestige. We want to play ranked teams, teams challenging for conference titles, teams with a large following and history. Obviously this won't happen immediately, it will take time. But if you look at our schedule this year and in the future you'll see that BYU can get some big games.
Let's say BYU decides to start completely from scratch and begin a brand new bowl. The first thing they do is look for a sponsor. I can only speculate at what goes on during this stage. My guess would be that Tom Holmoe and his people will be busy making calls to important alumni, school sponsors, and other businesses until they find someone interested in investing the money. This process could either take years or just a few short months, depending on the financial situations of businesses, interest, and luck. (Remember, this is almost pure speculation. Don't take any of this to be hard fact.) The school will probably also have to ok the bowl name with the sponsor.
When they have found their sponsor they must go back to the issues brought up in the starting from scratch vs. aligning debate. That is, decide upon a location, date, possible opponent, etc.
At this stage I stray even farther from the "Iron Rod" of starting a bowl straight into the "Mists of Darkness." Many things can happen at this point. I'm pretty sure certification comes last so I'll leave that out; but looking for a TV deal, negotiating payout, finding a definite opponent, as well as date and location can all happen in this time period. So I guess I'll pick the order that makes most sense to me and go from there.
The first decision they would have to make is coming up with the location and date. Location is important in this stage for determining an opponent. If you have a bowl in Los Angeles or Dallas you won't invite a Big East or ACC team. Several dates will also have to be discussed but ultimately the TV deal will make the decision.
The next step will be finding an opponent. Ideally we'd be able to pick up the Pac-12 3/4 or Big 10 3/4, but at first we'd possibly have to settle for less at first and build our way up to better competition. The opponent directly affects bowl payout and also the broadcasting rights. The better the competition, the more the money and the better the TV slot.
After an opponent is selected two more tasks must be accomplished before seeking certification. One is the TV deal and the other is payout. With our ESPN backing, finding and agreeing upon broadcasting rights shouldn't be too much of a chore. In fact, I bet they would even help BYU find a decent opponent. The final part is the payout, which would have to be discussed with the sponsor.
When all issues are taken care of and everything is settled is when the potential bowl must seek certification. After applying for certification all I see left to do is wait. My guess is as good as yours as to how long this could take. The NCAA will probably take into consideration the current number of bowls (right now 35), number of bowl eligible teams (71 last season with 70 slots), and the status of other bowls. (Fiesta, if a bowl tanks, etc.)
Starting a brand new BYU affiliated bowl is a completely possible idea, and if it were to happen I think it would be awesome! We would be able to dictate our own terms and have the freedom to maximize exposure. The big question is: will it happen? Probably not; but who predicted our independence?