With Miami’s sixth win of the season on Nov. 16 against Buffalo, the team earned a spot in a bowl game – or so the RedHawks initially thought.
However, as the slate of college football games on Thanksgiving weekend found one more team bowl-eligible than slots existed for bowl games, many RedHawks sat worried — as a 6-6 team in one of the weakest conferences in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football — that they would be the lone team left in the cold come bowl season.
Luckily for Miami, everyone working behind the scenes to create bowl season was already on the case. I spoke to Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, and Clint Overby, Vice President at ESPN Events.
Steinbrecher: Around the last two weeks of the season, we knew we were tracking for probably eight bowl-eligible teams, and it looked like there was a good chance we would place all of them, but then as we got closer and closer along, particularly as we got into that last week of the season, we knew going in that if certain teams won, there would be ample slots, and then as it turned out on that last week of the season, all of a sudden all the bowl slots were filled.
Overby: Right after the Sunday of Thanksgiving, we started looking at options for how to place teams. Our role with all of our partner conferences is to find the best matchups within our lineup and as those conversations evolved, it turned to “How can we accommodate everybody in the system?” And then the conferences embarked on their legislative path with the NCAA and we embarked on the logistical side with respect to TV and how to stage a game on a 20-day runway.
Steinbrecher: Last summer, the San Francisco Bowl (a game scheduled between the Big Ten and Pac-12) went out of business, and so there was a bowl license sitting there. We had 42 bowl games approved, so when that bowl game went away that license was there. So then, we were jockeying with ESPN about “Hey, could you place our teams”, “Please, could you place this team over that team”, and you’re trying to push the merits of your six-win teams over other six-win teams out there in the FBS universe. And as we got talking, all of a sudden this idea of trying to pursue that license and put another game on was something that we [multiple FBS conferences] were all very enthusiastic about, because it would solve a problem for a lot of us cause none of us knew for sure who might be the one sitting on the outside looking in.
With the decision made to add another bowl game to the calendar, ESPN Events just had to find the right location to host it.
Overby: So we own and operate the Frisco Bowl as part of our mix, and we’re partners with FC Dallas [the Major League Soccer team which plays in Frisco and owns Toyota Stadium, the venue for the game] on that game. We were looking for a game that already had scale built out, an available venue, staff who could work the game, hotel contract availability. All those things went into the discussion, and once we started going through the checklist, our partners in Frisco were able to meet all those and that’s how we came to the decision.
Miami plays the North Texas Mean Green in the Frisco Football Classic from Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on Thursday, Dec. 23, at 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.