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Tampa bowl to assess BCS slot

Becoming a fifth BCS game will have to be more attractive than the Outback's current setup.

Published March 2, 2004

TAMPA - The Bowl Championship Series agreed to add a fifth game for the 2006 season.

The Outback Bowl wants to be that fifth game. But only if it means a better deal than the one the Outback Bowl has now.

"We will do what's right for the Outback Bowl and the Tampa Bay area," Outback Bowl president and CEO Jim McVay said. "We will do whatever makes the most sense financially, aesthetically, logically, reasonably and rationally. But it's not automatic that it would improve our team and our game."

But the decision Sunday by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee and Coalition for Athletics Reform to add a fifth game, opening up the national championship to the nation's mid-major conferences, still could mean changes for the Outback Bowl.

The Outback Bowl picks third from the Southeastern and Big Ten conferences and is broadcast by ESPN on New Year's Day. That formula, in place since 1996, has resulted in four straight sellouts at Raymond James Stadium.

That deal is in place until 2006. McVay's concern is whether a change in that format would be best for a bowl game that has seen major schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and South Carolina visit.

Will Bowling Green, TCU, North Texas, Marshall or Miami (of Ohio) sell out as well?

"You don't want to enter into a whole new conference relationship with teams that aren't as attractive as what you have," McVay said. "You need to tell me would the inventory in that fifth BCS game be more attractive than the inventory we already have? We don't have an answer to that yet."

But by adding a fifth game in 2006, the BCS could affect what teams future Outback Bowls will draw from anyway.

"Will the current inventory we have still be available?" McVay said. "How are they going to fill those two spots? You can see there's a lot of questions."

Joining the BCS would mean several changes for the Outback Bowl's financial structure. The payout, which will be $5.5-million in 2005, would increase to about $28- to $29-million, McVay said.

Also, McVay said Tampa Bay's bowl would relinquish the broadcast and sponsor rights to the BCS. The game would be broadcast on ABC, but Outback Steakhouse would have to deal directly with the BCS to maintain its sponsorship, McVay said. But he was "100 percent sure" Outback would remain the sponsor.

Joining the national championship rotation also is problematic, McVay said. "We also don't want to wait every five years to have an attractive game," he said, "and the other four years aren't as attractive as what we currently have."

Once the details are finalized in the coming months, if the board of directors and the sponsor agree that joining the BCS is the best move, McVay said the Outback Bowl will join the chase to be that fifth game.

"If it makes sense for us, we will be at the forefront," McVay said. "But we aren't blindly pursuing it. Tell us what we're chasing and we'll decide if we want to chase it.

"We absolutely believe this is the best bowl trip in the country. The Outback Bowl absolutely can compete with any bowl."

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