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Peak Perspective: The MWC Deserves Better Bowl Fates

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MWC bowl tie-ins have long lacked any luster

The Mountain West teams deserve better.

In many things, really, but currently in their bowl tie-ins. Currently, the MWC bowls are not cutting it in terms of prestige, quality of opponent, or payouts. And although it is much easier said than done, it needs to change. In today’s post, the Mountain West bowl tie-ins are examined and discussed.

All details on bowls in this post are found here.

Current Structure

LA Bowl

  • Matchup: MWC vs. PAC-12
  • Payout: Unannounced (said to be “lucrative”)
  • Thoughts: This is clearly the best bowl the Mountain West has to offer its teams. It is the only game against a P5 opponent, albeit usually a 6-6 one. Even though the payout has yet to be revealed, it would be shocking if it wasn’t the largest sum of money by a significant amount. Plus, it is located in a prime recruiting area for all Mountain West teams. Not much not to like here.

Hawaii Bowl

  • Matchup: MWC vs. AAC
  • Payout: $1,200,000
  • Thoughts: A game in a great location, although one the can be a logistical issue to travel to and not always great over Christmas. On the other hand, it’s a pretty good payout, and the quality of the opponent is usually strong. However, because Hawaii is almost assured to be in this bowl game if the team is bowl eligible, the bowl is limited to some degree for the rest of the conference. The bottom line, there is a lot to like here. However, it would be preferable if it was the fourth-best MWC bowl rather than the second-best.

New Mexico Bowl

  • Matchup: MWC vs. C-USA
  • Payout: $1,050,000
  • Thoughts: It’s an average bowl, all things considered. One of the higher payouts in the conference is a plus, but the level of competition leaves a lot to be desired more often than not. Somehow, it’s still arguably the third-best bowl tie-in the conference has.

Potato Bowl

  • Matchup: MWC vs. MAC
  • Payout: $800,000
  • Thoughts: Not a ton going on here. A sub-par payout and sub-par opponent in terms of competition. Add in a usually chilly temperature in-game time due to the location, and there isn’t much left. At least the french fry bath for the winners is a bit of a fun gimmick.

Arizona Bowl

  • Matchup: MWC vs. Sun Belt
  • Payout: $350,000
  • Thoughts: Arguably the worst bowl in all the bowls, and there’s a lot of them. It has the third-worst payout, which means that teams are likely losing money if they don’t sell their ticket allotment, which is likely. The game is usually played against a Sun-Belt opponent, which means the quality is often among the worst in all of FBS (sorry, Sun-Belt). And, it’s the only bowl game that is not aired on TV. Plus, it runs the same time as a NY6 bowl. Instead, it is streamed. So it’s not even good exposure to a national audience. Not only should the MWC get out of this bowl, but this bowl also needs to either be severely rebranded or else discontinued altogether.

As for the other three bowls the MWC is involved in this year, the backup tie-ins or traded bowls, things actually aren’t as bad.

Frisco Bowl

  • Matchup: vs. CUSA
  • Payout: $650,000
  • Thoughts: While not a huge bowl by any means, it is a better option than some of the traditional MWC bowls. Also, the opponent isn’t great, but the payout is more respectable, and being in texas is a more desirable destination.

First Responders Bowl

  • Matchup: vs. ACC
  • Payout: $824,545
  • Thoughts: P5 matchup? Check. Solid payout? Check. Going to warm-weather texas, which is a recruiting area for some and a desirable location for all? Check. This is a great bowl to have for the MWC this year.

Quick Lane Bowl

  • Matchup: vs. MAC
  • Payout: $2,000,000
  • Thoughts: Nevada is a huge winner here this year. They take the place of a B1G team, so the opponent isn’t great, but the payout is, and Detroit is not an area the MWC ever goes, either in non-conference games or bowl games. It will be a good experience for the team.

Looking at the five main bowls for the MWC, the payout amounts may stick out. Here are the total payouts for the MWC bowls vs. other G5 conferences.

MWC: 5 bowls for $3,400,000 (including one undiclosed that is probably in the $2,000,000 range)

AAC: 5 bowls for $5,541,535 (including one undisclosed amount), and that’s before factoring in the NY6 bid.

CUSA: 4 bowls for $3,000,000

MAC: 6 bowls for $5,725,000

Sun Belt: 4 bowls for $2,975,000

The MWC has some work to do.

Solutions

Currently, Craig Thompson’s main priority is and should be getting the best deal he can for Group of 5 conferences in the playoff expansion discussions. However, as soon as that is wrapped up, he needs to turn his attention towards taking a big leap forward when these bowl agreements expire in 2026.

Admittedly, the MWC has the deck stacked against them. Most Power 5 teams aren’t trying to schedule bowls against the G5. And conferences like the American aren’t either. But it doesn’t mean it is impossible Here are a few thoughts, even if they are not likely to happen.

Get ride of bowl tie-ins all together.

  • While it will not happen and is well beyond the power of the Mountain West, it would be much better. In this model, bowls would take teams based on rankings more than anything, which would lead to more exciting matchups, which means more people watch, and more evenly matched teams, which leads to better games. Imagine if the LA Bowl took the 22nd vs. 23rd ranked teams every year instead of by conference? Obviously, exceptions would be made if the two teams were in the same conference or had already played one another, but it is seemingly a better system.

Rework the Hawaii Bowl.

Neither conference would probably go for this, but what if the one bowl featuring the top two Group of 5 conference teams was reimagined into a higher-profile bowl? What if each conference sent its best or second-best teams? The top team still goes to a NY6 bowl, but the second-best team from that conference (conference champ loser) would play the best team from the conference that didn’t get the NY6 (conference champ winner). It would likely feature two ranked teams, which is a rarity for a non-NY6 bowl. It would be much better than playing a 6 or 7-win P5 squad. Playing this game could even end up developing into one of the most-watched bowl games outside of the NY6 games because it would usually feature a big matchup.

Copy the LA Bowl model.

  • It’s not the best model, but it may be the best thing the Mountain West can get, A solid payout and a P5 opponent, even if it is a middle-of-the-road team. But the money and prestige would be there for MWC teams and fans. More MWC teams would get to see if they can measure up to P5 teams at the end of the season as well in their out-of-conference games at the start of the year. Examples of this would be the Quick Lanes Bowl (Big Ten) or First Responder Bowl (Big 12 or ACC). Surely Thompson and the Mountain West can find a way to steal a bid away from the MAC.

Develop tie-ins with existing at-large bowls.

  • Similar to the section above, look for upgrades with bowls that currently don’t have two tie-ins. Doesn’t it make more sense for at-large teams to be regulated to the worst bowls? It can’t be that hard to strike a deal with a bowl when one or zero other teams are currently involved. It would make sense that a bowl also seeks some stability. Going from the Arizona Bowl to either the Cure Bowl (two at-large teams $573,125 payout) or the Frisco Bowl (two at-large teams, $650,000 payout), and Potato Bowl to the Gaspiralla Bowl (two at-large teams, $1,125,000 payout) would be small but significant upgrades.

Dump the Arizona Bowl.

  • Please. Just do this regardless. It’s a terrible bowl in every facet.