Sun Belt Adds New Bowl As Tie-In

August 20, 2013 · By · Filed Under Football, News, Sun Belt Conference 
The Cramton Bowl will be the host site for ESPN Regional Television's new Camellia Bowl. Photo Credit: Chris Pruitt | wikimedia.org

The Cramton Bowl will be the host site for ESPN Regional Television’s new Camellia Bowl. Photo Credit: Chris Pruitt | wikimedia.org

The Sun Belt Conference has a new bowl tie-in starting in 2014. ESPN Regional Television announced that they will create a new bowl game that will be named the Camellia Bowl and will be played at the newly renovated Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.

The new bowl game will pair the Sun Belt against the Mid-American Conference with former Troy Athletics Director Johnny Williams serving as the game’s Executive Director.

This bowl becomes the third in the state of Alabama along with the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile and the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham. Originally the Legends Bowl Group had expressed interest in developing a bowl game at Alabama State but they concentrated their efforts on an effort in Charleston, South Carolina after ESPN moved to create the Camellia Bowl.

With the addition of the Camellia Bowl, ESPN Regional Television now owns nine bowl games after they added the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho to their lineup last week. They also own the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Las Vegas Bowl, New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, Texas Bowl in Houston and the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu.

This new bowl game is driven by the new college football postseason and smaller conferences that have more money due to the College Football Playoff contract. Those small conferences are seeking more bowl tie-ins.

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said the geographical consideration and ESPN’s involvement made the Montgomery bowl game a sensible choice for the conference as a third bowl tie-in. “The fact that ESPN is involved in the game from a business standpoint makes the bowl an immediate good business deal,” he said. “It eliminates the investment that the Sun Belt has had to make in other bowls.”

Benson continued, “Some of these deals in the past were advertising a $750,000 guarantee (to schools) and be required to buy $750,000 in tickets. What we expect out of Montgomery is a business model that will actually guarantee the Sun Belt and the MAC some revenue that isn’t tied to ticket sales. There will be more revenue on the front end.”

The deal with the Camellia Bowl is that the Sun Belt will guarantee to purchase 2,500 tickets. This is a new trend in college football bowl contracts where conferences buy fewer tickets and have more leverage with bowls in contractual terms.

The Sun Belt already has primary bowl tie-ins with the GoDaddy.com Bowl and New Orleans Bowl but commissioner Benson has not given up on a fourth bowl tie-in in Little Rock, Arkansas. “We haven’t given up on Little Rock yet,” he said. “The Sun Belt is still very interested in Little Rock, but we obviously need to have an opponent. I think Little Rock, for some of the same reasons that Montgomery worked, makes just as much sense as a game in Memphis or Shreveport or Birmingham or anyplace else in the footprint.”

Two other bowl sites continue to be interested in the Sun Belt conference. Orlando and Charleston, South Carolina. However, Charleston has a NCAA ban due to the Confederate flag remains on display on the State House grounds.

But the issue that some may be asking themselves is ‘Will there be enough eligible teams for the bowl games.’ That is a good question. Last season we were talking about how South Alabama could have been eligible for a bowl game even though they were not a FBS member and thus eligible for a bowl choice. In the end, the new rule passed by the NCAA did not need to be used as, in the end, they had enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all the bowl slots.

Montgomery has spent about $10 million to renovate the Cramton Bowl. The stadium was built in 1922 and has a listed capacity of 25,000. It hosts the Raycom College Football All-Star Classic held each January. It previously was the site for the Blue-Gray Football Classic, an all-star game that was normally held on Christmas day, from 1939 through 2001.

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