EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s been hanging over college athletics for most of the last two weeks, ever since UCLA and USC left the Pac-12 for the Big Ten on June 30.
The specter of more conference realignment has been a possibility ever since, with rumors that the Pac-12 could crumble even further entering the fray last week – Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah were said to have been hearing overtures from the Big 12, as were Oregon and Washington, but perhaps to a lesser degree.
Monitoring the situation closely in El Paso, has been the committee that oversees the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. The game has partnered with the Pac-12 and the ACC for years; the thought of the Pac-12 falling apart is one that Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas never thought he’d have to consider until recently.
“We immediately started jumping on the phones and calling people,” Olivas said. “Nobody saw that (UCLA and USC leaving the Pac-12) coming, I don’t think. We have no idea what’s going to happen but we have to do our homework and find out what we’re going to do if the Pac-12 disappears.”
While the initial fervor of realignment has calmed down – for now – as the Pac-12 attempts to negotiate its new television deal, the Sun Bowl, like all bowl games with ties to the Pac-12, is right to have some kind of contingency plan in place.
The Pac-12 has been a bowl season partner of the Sun Bowl since 1995; the ACC joined the fold in 2011. Currently, the three entities are under contract to play the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl through 2025. Those agreements are typically revisited two years before they’re set to expire, a common and normal practice across college football bowl games.
Olivas told KTSM that in the Sun Bowl contract with the Pac-12 and the ACC, there is a clause that effectively states that if a team leaves or is added to one of the respective conferences, that doesn’t affect the league’s affiliate with the Sun Bowl.
Therefore, in the event that the Pac-12 loses a myriad of teams to the Big 12 and adds another host of schools from another league, the contract would remain in place with the Sun Bowl through 2025.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Sun Bowl wouldn’t look elsewhere, if a better conference affiliation were potentially on the board when it comes time to renegotiate the current bowl contract with the ACC and the Pac-12.
“Everybody is always one or two years ahead of the expiration of the contract, so we will start looking at the best options that we have,” Olivas said. “We’ve been with the Pac-12 contractually since 1995 and the ACC for over 10 years. So, we’ll start with them but at the end of the day we’ll do what’s best for the city, the sun bowl and for the people here in town.”
With everything in college football seemingly capable of changing at the drop of the hat, the Sun Bowl committee is being as diligent as it possibly can in surveying the landscape of college athletics.
The bottom line as of now, is that no one knows what’s going to happen, because the Pac-12 is currently still intact other than the departure of UCLA and USC. However, if other conference affiliations become more enticing as the end of the current Sun Bowl contract approaches in 2025, there could be changes.
“We will not be standing still, we’ll be looking for the best possible options. The Pac-12 has been great for us, but is the Big 12 better for us if the Pac-12 loses four teams? We’ll have to look at that,” Olivas said. “We’re looking at every option that could possibly happen and then we’re going to decide who we need to talk to and where we need to go.”
The 2022 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will be the 88th edition of the game. It will kickoff at noon on Dec. 30, moving off its traditional New Year’s Eve slot due to New Year’s Six bowl games being played that day.