LAS CRUCES — Arizona Bowl Executive Director Alan Young would love to tell the story of ending the nation’s longest bowl drought.
Essentially all New Mexico State has to do is beat South Alabama at home on Saturday and the Aggies would likely end up facing a Mountain West opponent in the third Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl on Dec. 29 at the 56,000 seat Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.
“It all adds up to a really good story,” Young said. “There is so many reasons why we would love to have New Mexico State in our game and the bowl drought is just one of them. They have a great offense and matching them up with the Mountain West team that stresses offense too just makes it a great game. No. 1 we would like a good game. No. 2 with fans so close from Las Cruces and El Paso that we think we can get a lot of fans here.”
Team Selection Chairman for the Arizona Bowl Brent DeRaad will be in attendance at Aggie Memorial Stadium on Saturday for the Aggies’ season finale.
“Because of TV broadcasts and a number of other reasons, (an official invitation) doesn’t become official until probably early Sunday morning,” Young said. “We had a lot of fun with South Alabama (the 2016 Sun Belt Conference representative in the Arizona Bowl). We have told the (Sun Belt) that we would certainly be thrilled with anybody but we think New Mexico State would provide for a good matchup against a team from the Mountain West.”
Young believes New Mexico State’s location could help draw fans to the Arizona Bowl, which has averaged 37,359 in attendance in its first two years.
The Arizona Bowl hosted Mountain West Conference teams Colorado State and Nevada in its first year in 2015. The inaugural contest drew an official attendance of 20,425.
Last year, South Alabama played Air Force Academy with an attendance of 33,868 in the game’s second year.
“The town has really grown to embrace this game and it really depends on the matchups,” Young said. “The first year we were pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Most of them were locals. The second year, Air Force made a big difference. There is a large Air Force base in Tucson (Davis-Monthan) that supported the game.”
After two years on the American Sports Network and Campus Insiders streaming the game, this year is the first year of a three-year contract with CBS Sports Network.
“We hope to make it with CBS as long as the Sun Bowl but right now it’s for three years,” Young said.
The Arizona Bowl is slotted fifth in terms of selection from Sun Belt bowl-eligible teams after the New Orleans Bowl, the Dollar General Bowl, the Camellia Bowl and the Cure Bowl.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the Sun Belt has four bowl-eligible teams. Five-win Louisiana is at Appalachian State.
Each of the Sun Belt’s bowl games has different ticket allotments, and contrary to what NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers told an El Paso television station, there are no ticket sales requirements for any of the Sun Belt bowls.
In fact, each institution actually receives 50 percent of the ticket sales with the other half going back to the Sun Belt and into a pool that will be redistributed to the bowl participants. For the Arizona Bowl, each institution receives 5,000 of the $50 tickets. Each institution also receives a $150,000 travel allowance and a $250,000 distribution from the Sun Belt. Participants in the Arizona Bowl ($33,000 bonus) and Dollar General Bowl ($17,000 bonus) get a bonus amount due to later start times.
“We love having the Sun Belt and we think it’s a great matchup with the Mountain West and we certainly are excited that New Mexico State may get in our game and bring a lot of people from New Mexico and west Texas,” Young said.
Young said the Arizona Bowl’s agreement with the Mountain West is similar to the Sun Belt. The Las Vegas Bowl gets the first pick from the Mountain West’s bowl-eligible teams.
“After that, the (Mountain West) has the ability to kind of wield the teams and select the team that might be best for a region,” Young said. “In talking to the conference, I would say that there is a good chance we would get one of the teams from the eastern side of the Mountain West Conference. We might be looking at a Utah State, Wyoming or Colorado State against New Mexico State.”
Young said the Arizona Bowl is surrounded by events in Tucson leading up to and after the game.
The Aggies just have to win on Saturday.
“The teams have a great experience but the fans do as well,” Young said.
Sports Editor Jason Groves can be reached at 575-541-5459 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves.
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