The Sun Belt's going to Arizona.
Lost in all the kerfluffle of the Sun Belt baseball tournament and the national media firestorm occurring in Waco was a major announcement from the SBC about a new 5th bowl game tie-in. This one has significant implications for the conference's western contingent, long left hanging by the Sun Belt's bowl locations of Orlando, Montgomery, Mobile, and New Orleans:
Let's parse out this agreement, shall we?
Both the Mountain West and Sun Belt Conference have committed to sending teams to the NOVA® Home Loans Arizona Bowl for the 2016-2019 seasons.
Conceived in 2015, the Arizona Bowl is a decent geographic solution for the Sun Belt, whose hopes for a western bowl previously seemed dead with the NCAA scuppering any hopes of new bowl games in Austin, Texas, or Little Rock, Arkansas. Given that the Armed Forces Bowl is locked in through 2019 with the AAC, service academies, Big 12, and Big 10, a bowl game in Fort Worth wasn't an option. Same with the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which is locked in with Conference USA and alternating teams from the Big 12 and Big 10.
Therefore, Tucson was the last option left for a bowl game west of the Mississippi that was somewhat accessible for its western members. Las Cruces is a reasonable 4 hours away, while Texas State is a 13 hour road trip away on I-10. Idaho is still out on an island, but they finally get a shot at a bowl game that's not two time zones away before they drop down to FCS. Arkansas State fans will have to fly as well, but they'll probably be too busy permanently occupying the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile or the New Orleans Bowl to care.
Additionally, Campus Insiders, the premier online destination and leading content source for college sports fans, has agreed to a multi-year media partnership for the streaming of the game and enhanced digital game experience on CampusInsiders.com as well as on its many mobile and streaming media partner platforms. Campus Insiders is also finalizing an agreement with a national linear broadcast partner to televise the game.
Last year, that meant the American Sports Network broadcast the Arizona Bowl, and Nevada and Colorado State played their game in relative obscurity as a result. Considering that the Camellia Bowl, GoDaddy Bowl, and New Orleans Bowl were hosted on ESPN and the Cure Bowl was held on CBS Sports Network, it's safe to assume the western denizens of the conference will be hoping for a similar agreement.
If that happens, having both a national tv broadcast and an online streaming option would be a pretty good deal for the schools involved and the conference. If not, you can count on some more griping from the Sun Belt's western outliers.
We'll keep you updated as more details about the Arizona Bowl trickle out over the summer.