I don’t know if you are aware, but Houston has quietly built itself a very respectable collegiate bowl game in the Texas Bowl. I have had the wonderful opportunity to be involved with it since its inception in 2006.
Houston was in danger of losing its bowl license due to the lack of a strong corporate sponsor. If you want to get an idea of how bad things were, you can read this article by ESPN’s Sports Guy, Bill Simmons. (NOTE: While the article does a fair number of good points, Mr. Simmons is still a Boston writer and, therefore, unable to write a wholly objective article about anything to do with Houston.)
So, Houston was about to lose its bowl, but a gentleman by the name of Bob McNair (most AWESOME Houston sports team owner EVER!) felt Houston and collegiate bowls should not be separated again. (Houston lost its bowl once before when the Bluebonnet Bowl, our original bowl game, folded in 1987.) He stepped in, and created the Texas Bowl, a celebration of culture, heritage and football tradition of the Lone Star State. While it’ll never have the regal charm of a Rose or Orange Bowl, I’ll take the Texas Bowl over Meineke Car Care or Chick-Fil-A Bowls and day of the week and twice on Sundays.
The biggest challenge for the Texas Bowl has always been its match-up. On paper, they haven’t always had the best choices when it came to teams to invite to Houston to play in Reliant Stadium. And, let’s be honest, who wants to play a game in Houston when you have Hawaii, Las Vegas and San Antonio as alternate sites? Still, with an amazing amount of dedication and hard work, the Texas Bowl has been able to improve its match-up by choosing the #6 in the Big 12 and Big 10 Conferences. The Texas Bowl has always had a relationship with the Big 12 harkening back to the old days when the Southwest Conference seeded the teams for the Bluebonnet Bowl. Now they have an opportunity to bring in a “better” school. Even better, with the new agreement from the Big Ten Conference, Houston is assured of a quality match-up every year! With this new conference alignment, I have little doubt the Texas Bowl will be able to negotiate a Tier One Bowl (one step below BCS) contract going into the next round of conference negotiations.
I doubt the Texas Bowl will ever break into the vaunted bowls of the BCS, but that will have more to do with the lack of the Big Four (Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta) allowing any new members into their exclusive club. They just don’t appear to be very willing to expand the group beyond the current four.
In any case, the Texas Bowl needs your help. For any bowl game to be successful, there must be local support. This means you buy tickets regardless of what the match-up is. The new agreement will further guarantee you get a good match-up, so this shouldn’t be hard. As for this year, the bowl game is starting to look like a great match-up between (cross your fingers) Navy and a school from the Big 12. The current Bowl Projections over at ESPN are split between Navy playing either Kansas State or Iowa State. These teams have played in Houston in recent years, Kansas State in the 2006 Texas Bowl and Iowa State in the 2005 EV1.net Bowl. I prefer Kansas State because I saw what how well their fans travel, and combining them with the fans of the Midshipmen, this match-up could set Houston bowl attendance records.
I’m going to be writing more about the Texas Bowl in the coming weeks as we get closer to the announcement during the first week of December and the big game on Thursday, December 31. In the meantime, cheer the heck out of Navy. They need only two more victories to qualify for a trip to the Texas Bowl. Regardless of their opponent, I feel like their participation is the best way to close the first chapter Texas Bowl history as we look forward to new and exciting match-ups between the Big 12 and Big 10!