Austin Bowl officials have told Austin American-Statesman's Texas Longhorns beat writer Kirk Bohls that not only will they postpone their bowl game application until the 2016 season, but that their ambitions are also set higher than the G5.
According to the article, the short time frame for bowl officials to put an application together halted their advance towards hosting the inaugural bowl game during the 2015 season. The announcement will likely surprise few who have followed the rumors surrounding the Austin Bowl, as a lack of a confirmed location for the game suggested some uncertainty around planning for the event by bowl officials.
Most publications had tabbed Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas as the likely site for the event, which holds over 100,000 people. Speculation also abounded about the Dell Diamond, home to the Texas Rangers AAA affiliate Round Rock Express, as being a possible location for the game. However, Dell Diamond's tiny capacity of 11,631 is smaller than many local high school stadiums and was seen by many as a very distant second to DKR.
Perhaps the most interesting development in the announcement over the Austin Bowl's postponement has been their stated intention to go after tie-ins for higher profile conferences.
(Lance Aldridge of the Austin Sports Commission) anticipated no problems in regaining certification and said his dream still is to draw a Power 5 conference team to Austin.
"The bottom line is we feel we need more time to rally community support," Aldridge said. "To launch this game properly, we feel we need a little more time to make sure we have best TV package in place and the best conference tie-ins in place."
He is still hopeful of becoming one of the annual tie-ins with the Big 12.
Additional comments by Aldridge to the Austin Business Journal further suggest that Austin Bowl officials are far from wedded to the idea of keeping their AAC and Sun Belt tie-ins.
"We'll reach out to the NCAA and ESPN and talk about the bowl business in general since it's possible there might be some attrition in the number of bowl games," he said. "That could mean some different conferences free up as a result."
Arkansas State and, less realistically, New Mexico State stand to lose from this change of heart. Austin's about-face will also likely intensify the debate between the pro- and anti-Sun Belt camps within the Texas State fanbase. The latter group can now make a case that the delay in both the Austin and Little Rock bowl games further magnifies the uncertain position of the Sun Belt with regards to having enough bowl games that will honestly consider inviting teams from the western reaches of the conference.
Pro-'Belt Bobcats can find a silver lining, however: overall sentiment towards a game at DKR trended towards lukewarm on message boards and social media because of Austin being within only 40 minutes of San Marcos and the potential for a bowl game in a 100,000 seat stadium to look empty even if Texas State brought 30,000+ fans to the party. This may give the 'Belt more flexibility to find a location still within feasible traveling distance to A-State, Texas State, and NMSU (sorry Idaho) that would better suit each fanbase's potential to draw supporters.
The American Athletic Conference isn't hurting for bowl game tie-ins, but this latest news means SMU and Houston fans might also be robbed of a chance for an easy winter jaunt over to Texas's capital city.
We'll keep you updated on the status of the Austin and Little Rock bowls as this story develops.