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Big 12 wants closer minor bowls for fans

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The Big 12 wants to have a greater postseason presence in Florida and get into more bowls that its fans can reach by car.

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As college football gets ready for a shake-up in its postseason system, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he would like to reach agreements with five or six bowl games.

Bowlsby and the other nine major conference commissioners, along with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, will meet in southern California this week to pick the final three bowls to be involved in the six-site playoff rotation. Once those are in place, the conferences can turn their attention to the other bowls for 2014 and beyond.

The Big 12's current agreements, which end after this season, do not include a Florida game. Bowlsby said league officials want to change that, while keeping a strong hold on Texas and having a destination ``out West.''

Also, Iowa State's successful trip to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., last season - at least in terms of ticket sales - has the conference considering deals with bowls closer to campuses.

``I think that probably did cause us to think about bowls closer to home,'' Bowlsby said in a recent phone interview.

Bowlsby declined to talk about specific bowls being targeted by the Big 12, but a person familiar with the conference's plans told The Associated Press league officials are interested in striking a deal with at least one of the Tennessee bowls games - the Liberty Bowl or the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conference was not discussing details of its plans publicly.

The Liberty Bowl's current agreements are with the Southeastern Conference, Conference USA and the Big East. C-USA and the Big East, which will change its name to the American Athletic Conference next season, have been drastically altered by realignment. Seven C-USA teams will join the American over the next two seasons.

Last year, the SEC did not have enough bowl eligible teams to fill the Liberty Bowl slot and game organizers struck a deal with Iowa State. Cylcones fans gobbled up tickets and about 25,000 showed up to watch their team lose to Tulsa. Ames, Iowa, is about a six-hour drive from Memphis.

Most of the other nine Big 12 schools are within seven to 10 hours of Memphis - not a short trip but doable in a day.

``Our guys said we'd be well advised to have some bowls that we can drive to,'' Bowlsby said.

The Music City Bowl's current agreements are with the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference.

The addition of West Virginia to the Big 12 last year has in part led the conference to turn its attention to the talent-rich southeast part of the country, especially Florida.

The Big 12's current bowl lineup includes: the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio; the Holiday Bowl in San Diego; Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston; the Pinstripe Bowl in New York; the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.; and the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

Bowlsby said the conference expects to often have its champion in the final four when the playoff starts, plus send another highly rated team to one of the four other marquee bowl games. The Cotton Bowl is expected to be part of the playoff bowl rotation.

The Big 12 is unlikely to keep its affiliation with the Yankee Stadium game and there has been speculation the Holiday Bowl could switch to a Big Ten affiliation with that conference interested in playing more postseason games in California.

``We've had a 16-year partnership with the Big 12 and it's been a great relationship,'' Holiday Bowl executive director Bruce Binkowski said. ``We are right now looking at all of our options moving forward. There's interest in the Big Ten, interest in the Big 12. We're looking at all options to make this the best bowl game that we can.''

The top Florida games beyond the Orange Bowl - the Outback Bowl in Tampa and the Capital One Bowl in Orlando - have SEC-Big Ten matchups. Orlando also hosts the Russell Athletic Bowl earlier in the bowl season. That has tie-ins with the Big East and the ACC.

While the SEC seems likely to keep its flag planted in Florida, and the Big Ten isn't about to vacate the Sunshine State altogether, there could be a spot for the Big 12.

Bowlsby wasn't about to speculate.

``Everybody is kind of holding their cards close to the vest right now,'' he said.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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