UPDATE 6/14/13 11:30 a.m.
UALR’s athletic director, Chris Peterson, was on 95.3 The Ticket in Jonesboro, Ark., Friday and said he has been working with leaders from the Sun Belt Conference, the MAC and central Arkansas business leaders about the potential of Little Rock hosting a bowl game – The Rice Bowl. He said a bowl game in Little Rock would be a “startup bowl game – not replacing one that exists.”
“Why not a Rice Bowl?” Peterson said. He also said the optimal time for a bowl game would be in December before Christmas.
“In a perfect world, we’re looking at the 20th of December… But that is my wish,” he said.
He said ESPN has been contacted about the potential of being a television partner. “We have to have a tv partner.” Additionally, he indicated conference leadership has plans for discussions with ESPN in the coming weeks.
Peterson said there have been preliminary discussions with Riceland Foods as a sponsor, but “nothing in stone.”
“The tv deal has to be done, first,” he said. “A lot has to be done before we can say there is a done deal [with a sponsor].”
Peterson said he hopes central Arkansas will support a bowl game. “This is our time to shine. Show the country we are the kind of football fans we profess to be in this state.”
Editor’s Note: Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson discusses why he was in Little Rock Thursday, at War Memorial Stadium:
Astatenation.com reported this week that the chances of a bowl game coming to Little Rock have improved greatly in recent days. In fact, an official at an in-state school that is a member of the Sun Belt Conference said a new agreement matching the Sun Belt and The Middle America Conference (MAC) is “very likely.”
The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, which was hosted by a MAC team is losing its home and is looking around. Folks in Detroit are looking around town to see if a suitable venue can be found.
The Little Caesars Bowl was played indoors at Ford Field, which recently decided it was going to create its own bowl with a tie-in to the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference. That game is planned for 2014.
The Ford Field bowl has made a presentation to the Big Ten members, something the Pizza Bowl could not do because it had not secured a home.
The Pizza Bowl is looking at moving to Comerica Park, where the Detriot Tigers play, after 2013, the last year of the agreement between the MAC, Big Ten and ESPN. But an outside game in Detriot in December is risky, weather-wise.
This year’s game will be the 17th for the bowl, which was once known as the Motor City Bowl.
In his press conference at the end of the Sun Belt Conference meetings this week, league commissioner Karl Benson said he expects a third bowl tie-in for the SBC soon. There are existing tie-ins with the New Orleans Bowl and the GoDaddy Bowl, where ASU has played the past two years.
In December, Benson said he visited War Memorial Stadium. A visit by MAC officials is expected this summer.
“The Sun Belt Conference is very interested in Little Rock as a potential bowl site,” Benson said. “We know there are conversations that are ongoing with some of the powers that be within the corporate community in Little Rock. Chris Peterson, the athletic director at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is taking a strong lead in bringing some of those important people to the table. War Memorial would be a fantastic bowl site. I think the Sun Belt is very bullish on Little Rock as a potential bowl site for us.”
Taking over the Pizza Bowl charter would be the easiest and quickest way for Little Rock to get its bowl game. Working out a TV contract would be the next major hurdle, but with cable outlets clamoring for programming that would likely not be much of an issue.
Bowl sponsorship, however, might be.
UPDATE 6/13/13 9:32 a.m.
Perhaps it’s the Rice Bowl?
UPDATE 6/11/13 9:38 a.m.
As many as nine locations are under consideration to begin bowl games in 2014, according to sources: Miami, Orlando, Little Rock, Ark.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Los Angeles; Ireland; Dubai and either Toronto or Nassau, the Bahamas.
Any new bowls created in 2014 would be for the smaller conferences: the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt. An NCAA moratorium to add new bowls expires after the 2013 season.
A potential bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock is expected to pit C-USA vs. the Sun Belt, a source said. The Christmas Bowl or Los Angeles Bowl, to be held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, is trying to secure a game pitting the Mountain West annually against either the Pac 12 or American conferences.
(Jeff Reed is editor of Astatenation.com. His column appears weekly for Sporting Life Arkansas.)