When the Alamo Bowl passed on WVU’s football team, I must admit I was surprised.
Bowl president Derrick Fox and staff passing on passing? They passed on pitting Washington State and standout quarterback Gardner Minshew against West Virginia and stud QB Will Grier (if, that is, the latter indeed decides to participate)? They decided to pass on a Mad Scientist Bowl pitting Wazzu coach Mike Leach and former protégé and WVU coach Dana Holgorsen?
Instead, Fox and company went with lower-ranked Iowa State from the Big 12? The ISU led by (uh, let me look this up) freshman QB Brock Purdy? The Cyclones that just squeezed by Drake?
The answer, of course, was yes. The Mountaineers are headed to the Camping World Bowl against Syracuse. That could stir magical memories from the teams’ Big East past (see completion of the 1988 regular season) or feisty memories (see 1992 brawl). Then again, after such high expectations for WVU heading into this season, it could feel like the teams meeting in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl.
So what happened? Why won’t Mountaineer fans be hitting the River Walk in San Antonio? Well, according to Fox, who spoke to the San Antonio Express-News, his committee “weighed all the factors and looked at the team that has won seven of the last eight games, has not been to San Antonio before, and a fan base that is really excited about this year.”
“The intangibles come down to: What’s the fan support? What’s the feel like? What’s the sense behind this team? What we’re feeling and sensing from those fans is they’re really looking forward to coming to San Antonio.”
Which is undoubtedly true. Cyclones fans have to be excited about their program, especially since whipping the Mountaineers 30-14 earlier in the season and finishing third in the league. Also, last season, ISU easily sold out its allotment of 10,000 tickets to the Liberty Bowl.
Yet the view from here is Fox and company may have misread WVU’s fan base. Yes, Orlando, the site of the Camping World Bowl, is easier for Mountaineer fans to reach. But, guys, a matchup with Washington State would have drawn West Virginia fans.
One can’t help but wonder if Alamo Bowl officials just looked back to last season. WVU fans were again disappointed after their team went from 7-3 to 7-5 after an injury to Grier. School officials struggled to sell even 1,500 of their allotment of 6,176 for the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
But, Derrick, guys, it was the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. It was held one day after Christmas. Against Utah. In what turned out to be a cold Dallas. (I know because I was there.)
WVU fans would have attended this Alamo Bowl. History tells us that. Mountaineer fans have historically traveled well. Look it up.
Yet, instead of having both a nice draw and a marquee TV matchup, Fox and Alamo officials chose to pass.
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While there may be disappointment over WVU’s 2018 football campaign, the same can’t be said for that of the Big 12.
In sum, almost everything went right for commissioner Bob Bowlsby and company.
You might recall the league threw together a football championship last season after those working the College Football Playoff said the Big 12 needed an extra “data point.”
That “data point,” aka the league title game, did help get Oklahoma into the CFP, which was worth $6 million to the Big 12. Yet when the Sooners routed TCU 41-17 in Dallas, the Horned Frogs tumbled from a No. 11 ranking and out of contention for a New Year’s Six bowl. That cost the Big 12 tens of millions because the Sugar Bowl – which normally holds a spot for Big 12 and SEC teams – was one of the CFP semifinal games.
This season, though, the Big 12 championship between Oklahoma and Texas was a sellout. The Sooners used it as a springboard into the CFP pool. The Longhorns landed in the Sugar Bowl. And that will plunk at least $40 million more into the Big 12’s revenue pool over last year.
That’s significant. In 2017, Big 12 teams all received $36.5 million after the league pulled in $371 million in revenue. The CFP’s base payout to the Power 5 leagues was $54 million. After adding OU’s $6 million, the Big 12’s bowl haul was $60 million – dead last among the Power 5 leagues.
This year, that will change. And league members, including WVU, should all receive over $40 at the end of the 2018-19 calendar year because of it.
That’s what you call a good year.