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Mountain West Bowl lineup needs an upgrade

EL PASO TX - DECEMBER 30:  The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30 2010 in El Paso Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
EL PASO TX - DECEMBER 30: The Miami Hurricanes kick off to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30 2010 in El Paso Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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With the all the Bowl games complete this year for Mountain West teams it is a good time to evaluate the current bowl affiliations and see how things may change over the next couple years.  With three schools leaving and four schools joining over the next two years there is certain to be a shakeup in the Bowl affiliations as well.  Let's take a look at the current bowl lineup for the Mountain West and the payout from each bowl.

New Mexico Bowl $750,000
Armed Forces Bowl $750,000
Poinsettia Bowl $750,000
Independence Bowl $1.1 Million
Las Vegas Bowl $1 Million

Four of these bowls are tied in with Mountain West schools that host the bowl game in their home stadium.  The Independence Bowl is the only one played in a non MWC city.  The Armed Forces Bowl is typically played in TCU's Amon G Carter Stadium but was held at SMU's Ford Stadium this year due to renovations underway at AGC.  With TCU joining the Big East in 2012 it would be expected that the Armed Forces Bowl would no longer stay affiliated with the Mountain West schools.  Air Force may still have a desire to attend but they could always accept an at large bid if Army or Navy aren't available.

With TCU leaving it also means that the Independence Bowl will now be 834 miles from the closest MWC school which is New Mexico.  Now if the Lobos ever make it to a bowl game again (maybe in 2024) they will play in their hometown New Mexico Bowl since it will ensure the biggest turnout.   

Let's take a look at what the bowl lineup will most likely look like over the next three to four years and include some wishful thinking here.  Several of the bowls are set but there is still a chance for upgrades to be done to would have a nice financial benefit for the Mountain West. 

With Hawaii joining in 2012 it is fully expected that the Hawaii Bowl will come along for the ride.  The Warriors have an automatic bid in the game if they are bowl eligible.  So we'll add them to the mix.  Boise hosts the Humanitarian Bowl but there isn't a lot of demand for a cold weather bowl without a large following.  The people of Boise do a great job of supporting the game but Mountain West fans won't get very excited about that December trip. 

The Poinsettia Bowl is a nice game in a large venue but there is an easy upgrade available to the Mountain West in San Diego.  The Holiday Bowl has a much larger payout and more notoriety.  There is also history there when the  old WAC schools played there from 1978 to 1997.  In fact Barry Sanders went off for 222 yards in 1998 against Wyoming.  With the Big 12 losing two schools in can he hard for them to keep all their bowl spots and San Diego is quite a trip for all those fans so the Mountain West could be a natural fit to take their spot. 

The Independence Bowl will be a tough travel option for Mountain West fans to travel so far East every year.  A larger bowl that falls much better in the Western footprint would be the Sun Bowl that is played in El Paso, TX.  Currently a PAC 10/ACC matchup the MWC could be a natural to replace the ACC.  Now I know this creates a lot of PAC10/MWC matchups so hopefully the BIG12 could move from the Holiday Bowl to the Las Vegas Bowl.  There needs to be a pairing between the those two conferences that border each other but hardly ever play.

Obviously if there is a BCS Bowl game the Fiesta Bowl would be a natural fit but I'm not adding that since it probably won't happen.  So here is what the projected lineup could be for the MWC if all these options I discussed occured:

New Mexico Bowl $750,000
Hawaii Bowl $750,000
Las Vegas Bowl $1 Million
Sun Bowl $1.9 Million
Holiday Bowl $2.2 Million

Now there is no guarantee that these scenarios could work out but I would be happy with at least either the Sun or Holiday Bowl coming on board.  All of these game are still played before New Years Day but at least are much closer than the current lineup which ends well before the New Year.  Nevada has had a great turnout with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and they make try and make it a tie in with the Mountain West.  San Francsico would be a solid travel option for most teams but the game doesn't carry the same paycheck as the Sun and Holiday.