Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl Uncertainty Hurts MAC
By Jon Coffey
After the recent news that the Detroit Lions have decided to go ahead with plans to create the Ford Field Bowl starting in 2014, the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl and the Mid-American Conference have been left out in the cold.
Entering its 17th year of existence, the bowl, formerly known as the Motor City Bowl, is intended to pair a bowl-eligible MAC team and the eighth bowl-eligible school from the Big Ten to play in a nationally televised game, via ESPN, in late December at Ford Field. But during the last 16 years, the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl has hosted a Big Ten-MAC matchup just three times.
Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference have reaped the benefits of the Big Ten not fielding enough bowl eligible teams, and have sent a combined nine teams to the game.
The MAC has a 7-9 record as a part of the bowl, while the Big Ten is 2-1.
But with the Ford Field Bowl expected to come to an agreement with the Big Ten, and likely the ACC (as reported by ESPN), the MAC has seemingly fallen to the wayside.
The Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl committee has issued several public statements that express the desire to continue the bowl, but at this point, there have been no official agreements with conferences and no word from ESPN on whether or not it will carry the broadcast.
If the Little Caesar’s Bowl renews its contract with ESPN and acquires the appropriate funding, the biggest question then becomes where the game would be played.
The Ford Field Bowl’s location is evident by its name, but the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl would be forced to look elsewhere. Being the only bowl presently located in the Midwest, the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl will likely stay in Michigan. The bowl’s creators have already mentioned the idea of playing the game at Comerica Park, which could be an exciting draw for fans. But, as there is with any cold-weather game, there would be the potential for teams from the coasts and Southern U.S. to seek out bowls with more appealing weather conditions.
Based on the fact that there are currently five cities in the nation that host multiple bowl games, it’s not unreasonable to believe that Detroit is capable of hosting two.
As long as the MAC can stay in the mix with the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl (given the bowl finds the means to continue), the conference’s main problem will likely be a drop-off in the prestige of the opposing conference and therefore less national attention and money.
The expected payout from the 2013 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl is $750,000 per team according to collegefootballpoll.com. Bowls that pair two mid-major conference teams, like the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Mountain West Conference vs. MAC), produce payouts in the ballpark of $400,000.
For a team like Northern Illinois, which accepted a bid to play in the Orange Bowl in the 2012-2013 bowl season, the absence of the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl would yield little impact. But if the Huskies failed to earn a spot in one of the BCS bowl slots, the absence of an automatic MAC bowl bid would’ve been devastating to the conference.
As it was, the MAC sent only three of its schools to bowl games last season. If the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl were to discontinue, MAC schools would be competing for two guaranteed bowl trips each year (Famous Idaho Potato and GoDaddy.com Bowl) — a problem that darkens the future of the conference.
For now, the Little Casear’s Pizza Bowl and the MAC will have to wait until the Big Ten and the SEC unveil their upcoming bowl lineups, which are expected within the next two weeks. Once those two powerhouse conferences announce their projected bowl schedules, the trickle-down effect can take place and the bowl committees and conferences can begin to negotiate.
Until then, a 2014 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl will be in question.