Corporate sponsorship, the new and necessary thing on the college bowl scene now that network TV is unshouldering the load, presents some knotty problems. Never mind what role the sponsor means to take in team selection--for $2.5 million, it is an involved partner, wouldn't you say?--what are we going to call these bowls?
The Sugar Bowl, whose TV contract is first to expire among the majors and which was thus the first to seek a sponsor, answers easily enough: The USF&GI Sugar Bowl. That's what we'll call it. And as the other bowls fall in line, we'll call them by their corporate names, too.
And do you know why network TV isn't going to balk at billboarding the USF&GI Sugar Bowl, or the Mazda Gator Bowl, or the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl? Well, why do you think? Money, of course.
With all these corporate sponsorships have come what is known as a media buy. When Sunkist agrees to buy as many as 15 advertising spots, well, you've got yourself a Sunkist Bowl.
Oh, it's commercial, all right. But it makes you realize what sugar daddies the networks have been all this time, assuming all costs with their rich rights fees. But it's a new economy.
The Gator Bowl, for instance, could afford its independence when ABC paid it $800,000 last year. But now that CBS is paying it just $200,000 for the same game, well, why shouldn't it shop around. And if CBS is only going to pay 25 cents on the dollar, why shouldn't the network have to call it the Mazda Bowl?
Orange you glad Colorado can clinch the Big Eight title this week and play Miami in the, uh, Orange Bowl?
Well, no, as a matter of fact. But, truth of the matter is, Colorado, 5-4 but undefeated in the conference, could virtually clinch a spot in the Orange Bowl if it defeats Oklahoma this week. Since Colorado already has beaten Nebraska in Big Eight play, and has only to beat Kansas State to finish its season, it could very well win the Orange Bowl berth.
You may imagine that the Orange Bowl folks, who are now hoping for a Nebraska-Miami game, are not pleased at the prospect of a 7-4 team coming down instead.
Miami likes it, though. "If Colorado were to beat them, that would make the Orange Bowl much more interesting as far as we're concerned," said Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich. "I'm not saying we would go, but we would look real hard at the possibility."
Miami has just about shut the door on the Orange Bowl if Oklahoma, the only other undefeated Big Eight team, emerges with the bowl bid. Miami has already thumped the Sooners and would as soon not play them again.
More Bowl Talk: The Cotton Bowl, which had a mid-season scare when ineligible SMU was looking like a possible Southwest Conference champion, is feeling good again, now that Texas A&M is back in the driver's seat. Cotton folks, who have never had a Big Ten team, are liking the prospect of Ohio State for an opponent if it becomes a Rose Bowl runner-up.
"Nine-three has a nice ring to it," said Jim Brock of the bowl.
The Cotton Bowl promises to take a hard look at Pac-10 contenders, too, although probably not UCLA. "Two teams that have taken a step backward (are) Iowa and UCLA," Brock said.
One team they needn't bother courting is Oklahoma, even if it fails to get the Orange Bowl bid. Sooner Coach Barry Switzer has gone on record as saying that a trip to Dallas, well, it's not much of a trip. At Nebraska, however, they think it's a trip.
The Sugar Bowl doesn't know what's up. The Southeastern Conference is a little top-heavy, with four teams virtually tied for first and the remote possibility of the race ending in a six-way tie. In that case, the Sugar Bowl's complicated tie-breaker would go into effect.
"We just pick," said Mickey Holmes, the executive director.
For an opponent, the Sugar Bowl wouldn't mind bringing back Nebraska or picking from the Big Ten and Pac 10. One team that's out is Ohio State, which has already been beaten by Alabama. "Stanford's attractive," Holmes conceded, "if their band doesn't come."
The Orange Bowl is kind of a mess unless Miami-Nebraska falls into place. Colorado, at 7-4, would be a ratings disaster if it won the Big Eight title. In fact, if Colorado were to lose to Oklahoma, and Nebraska beat the Sooners, creating a three-way tie, look for the Buffaloes to get snubbed. Real quick.
The Fiesta Bowl is waiting to hear from Miami. Penn State is willing to follow Miami's lead, although it would clearly prefer not to play in Miami. Presumably, Tempe, Ariz. is neutral enough. The Nittany Lions have been there twice and have enjoyed the bowl.
Miami's Jankovich, meanwhile, is suggesting that it might enjoy playing Penn State if the Nittany Lions would consider scheduling the Hurricanes. "We surely hope that (Coach) Joe Paterno would consider that," Jankovich said.