I had the pleasure of interviewing Christmas Bowl CEO, Derek Dearwater this past week. We discussed the rumors of BYU being contracted to the bowl game if the game receives the NCAA approval for 2014. The text from the interview is located below, followed by some thoughts on the game.
First off, How and why was this bowl game created?
Derek- Originally it was my idea, but approached lifelong friends John & George Perles on my plan, since they have extensive experience starting and running college bowl games, and they joined me on the plan. I’ve been close with the Perles family since I was in 3rd grade. George was the Defensive Coordinator for the Steelers in those days. In 1980, John & I were co-captains of our high school team in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, we are passionate about football, particularly college football. The Christmas Bowl name was adopted in recognition of the first postseason bowl game ever played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the 1924 Los Angeles Christmas Festival.
Why was the Christmas Bowl denied NCAA certification in 2010?
We originally tried to build the bowl game around the PAC-10 #7 selection, since it had no bowl alliance (and still doesn’t today). We succeeded in securing the support of the PAC-10 AD’s with a unanimous vote in February 2010. That same month the WAC AD’s unanimously voted to provide us a top selection (#1 or #2). At the end of the day, the NCAA said we needed a 100% bowl eligible selection from another conference to back up the PAC-10 #7 selection, since it had a history of only being bowl eligible 60% of the time. We attempted to secure the only two teams that had 100% eligibility, the MAC #4 and #5, but the conference didn’t believe our bowl was a good fit and opted to commit those selections to back-up some of the 7 ESPN owned bowls instead. With that all said, we came very close.
If the Christmas Bowl is certified by the NCAA will that mean another bowl game is cut?
Hard to say, as we really don’t know where all the conference alliances are pointing towards with their bowl eligible selections. One could make the argument that our bowl game should not negatively impact any other bowls located in the Western U.S. Our bowl application addresses an undeserved market in Los Angeles. It also serves two expanding conferences in the Western U.S. very well, providing an additional bowl option for the now larger Mountain West and PAC-12 conferences, in their own geographic footprint. Add in the fact that BYU also needs bowl options where their fan base is strong, and the rationale becomes very clear and strong.
How much contact have you had with BYU AD Tom Holmoe?
On and off since BYU declared independent status (sometime in early 2011). Over the last month, I’ve been keeping Tom apprised on all my developments with the other conferences, so he understands where we are with other potential conference commitments.
Derek included an email with a copy of a letter sent to him by Tom Holmoe. In the letter Holmoe states that he would like to continue the conversation between BYU and the Christmas Bowl.
What is the possibility of getting BYU into this game? Possibly against Utah?
You would have to ask Tom Holmoe the first part of that question. We would make every possible effort to involve BYU, especially considering its large fan base in Southern California. The second part of that question depends on Kevin Weiberg and Larry Scott at the PAC-12. They are reluctant to align their #7 selection with any bowl, as they are concerned that it will not always be available with the new playoff structure in 2014-15. The PAC-12 has a historical bowl eligible team average of 7.6, so far they are planning 6 bowl alliances. If they were to send two teams to the playoffs and the conference performs to the historical average, there wouldn’t be a team. I personally think they will produce 8 teams consistently going forward and #7 will be a safe bet. With that said, if the PAC-12 sent us the #7, then you would have to hope that a bowl eligible Utah team became the #7, or #8 selection in the same year we had BYU scheduled.
Would this game be on ESPN?
Too soon to tell at this point. We just sent RFP’s out to all applicable TV networks other than ESPN two days ago. ESPN has advised us on a few occasions that they will provide us with a proposal once we have finalized conference alliances. I did advise Tom Holmoe that we would give ESPN special consideration in the years BYU would play in our game in respect for BYU’s contract with ESPN.
Derek also mentioned Fox, TBS, TNT, Tru TV, NBC and CBS as networks also being sent RFP’s by the bowl.
What are the possible dates for the game to be played?
That is really dependent on the TV network that we align with and the scheduling of other bowls. One thing you can safely count on is that it will not be Christmas Day. Likely dates in 2014 are on a date other than Christmas between 12/19 and 12/30.
Would the game be played in the new downtown LA football stadium, if it is built?
Too hard to say. For now it’s the LA Memorial Coliseum, with all the upgrades USC is putting into the venue over the next few years, there may never need to be a reason to look elsewhere. Don’t forget that the Coliseum is scalable with its seating capacity of 93,600, which is important if a high demand match up ever occurred. USC vs. BYU? I think we would sell a few seats!
As far as conference alignments go, The Christmas Bowl has plans to secure the Mountain West as it’s ‘anchor’ conference. Hopefully featuring the MWC’s one, two, or three selection. The Christmas Bowl is now negotiating to secure the 2nd or 3rd selection from the American Athletic Conference and the 7th selection from the PAC 12 Conference, to play the Mountain West in an alternating schedule (3 years each conference) in the Christmas Bowl 2014-2019. The bowl is also working with CUSA to utilize its #1 selection, in a potential 3 year arrangement, to play the MWC representative, in the event the PAC 12 #7 is not available.
So where does BYU fit into all of this? The Christmas Bowl is currently seeking a one or two-year agreement between the Cougars and the bowl game. The bowl is very impressed with BYU’s consistent bowl eligibility and ability to sell tickets, especially in Southern California.
The Christmas Bowl sounds like a solid option for the Cougars if the NCAA certifies it. A great city with an awesome climate on a prime-time stage would be real nice, especially on ESPN. Hopefully though BYU never plays in the game and is playing in the College Football Playoff instead. Wishful thinking, but hey, you never know.