With new state of the art NFL stadiums coming to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, it’s time for the “Conference of Champions” to be the champions of the college football bowl season. The Pac-12 and its less than stellar bowl tie-ins, long the ire of Pac-12 fans, especially when compared to the SEC and B1G, finally has an opportunity to vastly improve the glitz and glamour of the bowl season.
Often spoken of as the second best conference in football, the Pac-12 has arguably ranked dead last in terms of bowl game tie-ins. Most of its match-ups have traditionally paired a higher ranked Pac-12 school against a lower ranked school from another Power 5 conference.
For example, until just a couple years ago, the Pac-12 sent its No. 2 team to San Diego and the Holiday Bowl to play the No. 3 team from the Big 12. However, with the Holiday’s decline, the Pac-12 now sends its No. 2 team off to the Alamo Bowl and its No. 6 to San Diego. San Antonio is home to the Alamo Bowl and a fine city, with its Riverwalk and wonderful food, but not exactly the winter time destination of the sunny beaches of Southern California. For the fan of Pac-12 football the prospect of a trip to San Diego for the holidays, or making the trek to southern Texas … is there a choice here?
So why the uneven match-ups and less than stellar destinations?
Some would point to Larry Scott not doing enough to remedy the perception and marketability of the Pac-12. In reality, in regards to bowl games, he’s done about all that he could. He simply has not had that much to work with in terms of a sparkling venue. Los Angeles has not had a new stadium in, well, since Roosevelt was president. Granted it was the second Roosevelt, but still, how many of us can sing along with “Happy Days Are Here Again?” The San Francisco 49’ers share their new Levi’s Stadium for the Pac-12 Championship, but issues with the field and lack luster attendance have detracted from the event.
Even the Rose Bowl has taken a hit at times. Such as the 2014 game, the wrong that was the matching of the Pac-12 No. 2 vs the Big 12 No. 3 was later corrected, so that the champion or the No. 1 teams from each conference now play each other.
No, the Pac-12 and its commissioner aren’t to blame, for this we must turn to the NFL and the dithering dance that has gone on with the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego.
California Dreamin’ (of New Football Stadiums)
It has been a story oft repeated in major cites across the country. Billionaire owners groveling, threatening and bullying the people of the respective city to build for them one of todays sparkling stadiums. Now it’s not as though the city in question would not benefit from doing so, but why should a football team, with sufficient resources of it’s own, be catered to in such a manner when other priorities cry out?
As we all know, Los Angeles, the 2nd largest market in the country, recently went over 20 years without an NFL franchise, let alone have a stadium on par with the new facilities. Most other NFL franchises in recent history have moved to new stadiums or had major facility upgrades, even the above mentioned 49’ers have their new facility. However, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers continued to play in ancient, revenue challenged, 1960’s multi-sport dumps.
If the NFL, the most powerful sports league in the world, can’t convince California to cooperate, there’s only so much a single college commissioner can do. It’s mind boggling that the Southern California area, after the Rose Bowl, doesn’t host at least one, if not two more premier bowl games. Just look at what Florida does, and California has more to offer than Florida.
Think how it would be if the Pac-12’s number No. 2 bowl was to play in the Holiday Bowl in a nice new sparkly stadium. How about the Pac-12 Championship Game in a glowing venue in Los Angeles?
That would be this Pac-12 fans’ idea of a California Dream.
Paying the Price
As a result, Pac-12 brethren have for years suffered through the consequences of the NFL vs government dancing to the music of the greedy and/or inept NFL owners, resulting in nothing accomplished. Keep in mind, the new NFL stadium in LA is being built in spite of the golden state’s political culture and the aforementioned struggles. In what is essentially a unilateral move, Rams owner Stan Kroenke, has combined his real estate prowess, a Jerry Jones like shrewdness, then just add $7.5 billion and, bingo! Things can get done.
However, the Raiders “poor” Mark Davis, worth only $500 million, and has never been mentioned in the same sentence with “shrewd,” can’t. So off to Vegas he runs.
Which by luck, could work out great for the Pac-12.
When you think of the excitement and glamor that Las Vegas pumped into the Pac-12 basketball tournament, a new stadium in Sin City could instantly propel the Las Vegas Bowl into a top notch bowl game. How about one featuring the No. 2 Pac-12 team, against another highly ranked Power 5 school from, oh let’s see now … the SEC … the Big 12?
Now that sounds like a trip that a Pac-12 fan would make instead of going to San Antonio!
The End Game
With new NFL stadiums coming to LA and Vegas, the Southern California area should be the king of the college football bowl season with three marquee bowl games, the Rose, Holiday and the Las Vegas Bowls.
So with San Diego no longer a player, move the Holiday to Kroenke’s new football palace in LA, and Las Vegas steps up as the No. 2 bowl for the Pac-12 and SEC/Big 12. With its location, entertainment, and overall fan appeal, Vegas is a perfect fit.
It’s hard to imagine anyone from either conference complaining.
Well, okay, there would be some complaining, but not from the Pac-12 and its fans. The cynic in me says with all the red tape and politics that is college football — not to mention that the SEC would claim it was too far to send a team, waaay out west — it’ll never happen.
But for now we can at least keep on California Dreamin’.
Top photo credit: Wikimedia