MAC Teams Get Three New Bowl Games
This year, the Mid-American Conference has a trio of new “destination” bowl games, which are a big motivation for teams to clinch a postseason game invitation.
Starting in December, inaugural bowls will send MAC teams to Montgomery, Ala.; Boca Raton, Fla.; and Nassau, Bahamas. MAC's partnership guarantees that at least five MAC teams will play in bowl games this season. Last year, seven MAC teams were bowl-eligible and five received bids.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl will pit the MAC against the Sun Belt in each of the next six seasons. Owned and operated by ESPN, the bowl will be the third bowl game played in the state of Alabama, joining the BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham) and the GoDaddy Bowl (Mobile).
One of the appeals of Montgomery' is the the potential game site. The historic Cramton Bowl, built in 1922, seats 25,000 and recently has undergone a $10 million upgrade.
While this is a new bowl, it’s the second rendition of the name. The “camellia” is Alabama’s state flower, and Sacramento hosted a Camellia Bowl for Division II and III teams between 1961 and 1980.
Boca Raton Bowl
The MAC will square off with Conference USA in the other two new bowls this year, starting with the Boca Raton Bowl, to be played at Florida Atlantic University, about 45 miles north of Miami. Also owned by ESPN, the game will become the sixth bowl played at an on-campus stadium (FAU Stadium, capacity 30,000) and will shine the spotlight on one of the most affluent and fastest-growing municipalities in America.
The American Athletic Conference will participate in this bowl as well starting in 2015. The MAC will send a team through 2019, with the opponent alternating between the two other conferences.
The most exotic of the new additions is the Bahamas Bowl, the first for that country and the only collegiate postseason game this year to take place outside of the United States. It will mark the first bowl game to cross the American border since Toronto’s International Bowl (2007-10).
The game will be played at Nassau’s Thomas A. Robinson Stadium, named for the Bahamian track and field star. The stadium is typically used for soccer matches. Originally designed to seat only 15,000 when it opened in 2012, the stadium is expected to be expanded to accommodate as many as 30,000 spectators for the game.
A MAC team will trek to Nassau for the contest each of the next six seasons. Conference USA, which purchased the bowl from ESPN in April, will send a representative team to the game in at least four of the next six seasons, and possibly all six.
The Bahamas Bowl will be played at noon on Christmas Eve. No official dates or times have been listed yet for the bowls in Boca Raton and Montgomery, but each is expected to be played before Christmas. Naturally, each of the three new bowl games will be aired by an ESPN network.