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Big East eyes Trop as a bowl venue

The Big East, seeking to expand its bowl affiliations when its current contracts end in three years, has talked with the Devil Rays about a bowl game at Tropicana Field.

By GREG AUMAN
Published July 19, 2007


TAMPA - The Big East, seeking to expand its bowl affiliations when its current contracts end in three years, has talked with the Devil Rays about a bowl game at Tropicana Field.

"We've had very preliminary talks with the Devil Rays, but there's very serious interest on both sides," said Nick Carparelli, the conference's associate commissioner for football. "It makes a lot of sense for all parties involved, but what talks we have had are in the very early stages."

Early enough that Rays officials declined to comment until talks involving the St. Petersburg stadium have reached a more substantive level.

The Big East has affiliations with five bowls through the 2009 season, and Carparelli said that Tropicana Field is the only new venue the Big East has had bowl discussions about. The league filled its bowl commitments last season but had Pittsburgh bowl-eligible at 6-6 without a bowl to play in, so Carparelli said the conference would like to have relationships with six bowls in its next cycle of contracts.

A new bowl would not be certified by the NCAA until April 2010, and bowls must be in position to draw an average attendance of at least 25,000 to remain certified. The league's newest bowl, the International Bowl in Toronto, debuted with a crowd of 26,717 in January, while the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., drew 32,023 in December.

MORE USF: The football team picked up its fourth commitment of the 2008 season Tuesday when Mike Lanaris, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Lake Mary, accepted a scholarship offer. Lanaris was recruited by Louisville, Arkansas, UCF and Florida Atlantic.