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Dubai Bowl? Say it isn't so

Don't be surprised if, over the next few weeks, you see me sitting behind a table of desserts on the sidewalk outside the Daily Mail offices.

Those cupcakes are my ticket to the Dubai Bowl.

College football in the home of the International Cricket Council? That's just one of the potential new bowl sites reportedly being considered by the so-called "Group of Five" athletic conferences - Conference USA, Sun Belt, Mountain West, American and Mid-American. According to, those conferences are growing nervous that, once major college football moves to a four-team playoff in 2014, the "Power Five" conferences - the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-12 - will snatch up too many of the existing bowl slots and leave the smaller conferences home for the winter.

So the Group of Five is mulling over the creation of new bowls in up to nine new sites. Some make sense - Orlando, Miami, Boca Raton and Los Angeles. Some aren't the first cities you'd think of as bowl headquarters - Little Rock, Ark. and Montgomery, Ala. And some make you wonder if you were on "Candid Camera" - either Toronto or Nassau, Bahamas, Dublin, Ireland or ... I can't believe I'm even typing this ... Dubai.

That's right. If the Group of Five has its way, Marshall could spend the holidays relaxing on the beaches of the Persian Gulf.

Those bowls wouldn't kick off until the 2014 season, but there's no reason not to plant the seeds now.

So I asked the bosses if I needed to update the old passport. After shooting me a look that screamed, "Did we really hire you?" they said, "Uhh ... sure. How 'bout you expense it and we'll pay ya back afterward? Yeahhh, that's the ticket."

That response didn't exactly fill me with promise. Then it hit me - stay proactive. Two words popped into my mind.

Bake sale.

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other Group of Five schools followed my lead.

How else do you expect a bunch of college football programs with modest budgets to jet an entire team across the Atlantic for a bowl game? Now, chances are these transcontinental tilts will be the last of the potential slots to be filled. Methinks it's much easier to convince a couple of teams to play a bowl game in South Florida in December than in Ireland when the temperature's in the 40s in the same month.

But what does it say that those smaller conferences are even considering adding to the already robust bowl schedule? Actually, their worries aren't unfounded. That same ESPN report said that SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said his league would "probably, but not exclusively" desire to play other Power Five conference teams in future bowl games. It also mentioned that as many as 20 bowls could pit Power Five teams against each other after 2014.

The likely theory behind that? People would rather buy tickets to watch the No. 7 team in the Big 12 than the No. 2 team in the Sun Belt. Case in point: Georgia Tech got into a bowl with a 6-7 record.

Louisiana Tech at 9-3 and Middle Tennessee at 8-4 were left out.

Now, I don't advocate a team being shut out of a bowl because it lost its conference title game, and Louisiana Tech's reluctance to give the Independence Bowl an immediate answer cost it a spot in that game, but the facts remain.

The SEC has eight bowl slots on top of the automatic BCS berth for its champion. The MAC has three total. The Sun Belt has two total.

If the smaller conferences get pushed further to the margins, this could create a distinct college football middle class when the sport goes to a playoff. Under that system, a selection committee will pick one Group of Five team for a spot in one of the top six bowls.

So one team across five conferences gets to rub elbows with the big boys each season, while the rest might be left to dine on each other if they want to taste the postseason.

Is it fair? Not really, but it's business, and this reminds us that's exactly what the bowl system is. We're told they reward success, yet nine-win teams are overlooked for six-win teams based on which lunch table they sit at in the college football cafeteria. Sometime the cool kids just get the breaks.

But that's not stopping me from my quest of sitting in a press box in Dubai. Join me in my endeavor. Grab a snack at the bake sale table if you're walking past the office.

I make a mean lemon bar.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at Follow him on Twitter @derekredd. 


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