Humanitarian Bowl agreement good deal for the MAC

Andrew Harner and Andrew Harner

The Mid-American Conference has made many gains in the past few years in nationally promoting its football teams.

The conference redirected some of its money toward football a few years ago, which helped the MAC put five teams in bowls each of the past two seasons.

In addition, the league negotiated a TV contract with ESPN through the 2016-17 academic year, which includes 11 televised football games per season.

The MAC has also made a name for itself through some of its recent players – including big names such as Ben Roethlisberger, Omar Jacobs, Dan LeFevour, Freddie Barnes, and many more.

Now, the MAC will try to make a name for itself in the Pacific northwest once a year when they send a team to the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, to play a team from the Western Athletic Conference.

The agreement – which is good for the next four seasons – was announced Friday and drew simple praise from BG football coach Dave Clawson, who led the Falcons to the game in 2009.

“I think it’s awesome,” Clawson said.

And frankly, so should you.

The MAC and WAC have played in several exciting games the past few seasons, including:

•BG’s 43-42 loss to Idaho in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl

•Northern Illinois’ 34-31 loss to Idaho in 2009

•Western Michigan’s 51-28 win against Idaho in 2008

•Toledo’s 55-54 overtime loss to Fresno State in 2008

•Northern Illinois’ 42-35 win against Idaho in 2007

But, there have also been blowouts, such as BG’s 49-14 loss to Boise State this past season, which is where the only problem with the agreement may come in.

The MAC is sending its third best team to the bowl, while the WAC will send “one of its top teams,” according to a press release. The WAC has had multiple teams in the top 25 several times in recent seasons, and if that “top team” is one of them, the MAC may suffer an embarrassing defeat under the national spotlight.

But if the two teams in the game are evenly matched and play an exciting brand of football, the amount of free publicity that would follow is invaluable to the conference, and Clawson said there is a good chance of that happening.

“The MAC and the WAC are known for wide-open offenses, and there is certainly an entertainment value there that people appreciate,” Clawson said.

A perfect example is once again the 2009 H-Bowl. I subscribe to several Google alerts pertaining to BG football and maybe two weeks ago, there was a new article written about the game, which was played Dec. 30.

And you know that game will be talked about numerous times this coming season.

The Humanitarian Bowl drew its highest TV ratings in 2008 and 2009 with more than 3 million viewers each year, and if the bowl becomes known for featuring wide-open offenses annually, those ratings have nowhere to go but up.

Additionally, the game is already an interesting draw for casual college football fans because it is the only bowl in a cold weather city that is played outdoors, and TV viewers almost always stop flipping through channels when they see the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.

Another win for the MAC is the fact the H-Bowl replaces the International Bowl, which folded earlier this year. In that game, the MAC was matched up against a team from the Big East, which won all four matchups.

Being able to play against a comparable conference in the WAC, the MAC will have a chance to establish a winning tradition, according to Clawson.

“If you took Boise [State] out of their league, we might be ranked higher than them,” Clawson said. “We’re recruiting the same type of player in different areas of the country.”

Put it all together and perhaps the MAC can start improving on the 2-15 record it has posted in bowl games since 2006.