Could Hawai’i Go Bowling on the Mainland in 2019?

Brett McMurphy’s bowl projections revealed an interesting change to the Mountain West tie-ins. The 2019 Hawai’i Bowl will have BYU, if eligible, playing a team from the American.

Which begs the question; if Hawai’i is eligible, could they find themselves bowling on the mainland?

In its history, Hawai’i has only gone bowling on the mainland twice, in the 2008 Sugar Bowl and 1992 Holiday Bowl. Most people remember the 2008 Sugar Bowl where Georgia shut down an undefeated Hawai’i team 41-10.

Hawai’i went to the Holiday Bowl in 1992 as WAC co-champions and defeated 6-4-1 Illinois 27-17. They would finish 11-2 and ranked #20 in the AP Poll that year.

Here’s a look at the 2018 Mountain West Bowl selection process:

Even though the Mountain West loses the Hawai’i Bowl, they will gain a tie-in to the Armed Forces Bowl. In 2015 – the last time the Mountain West went to the Armed Forces Bowl – it replaced the Las Vegas Bowl as having first choice of eligible teams, with BYU going to Sin City instead.

This year, the Mountain West keeps the Las Vegas Bowl, so the Armed Forces Bowl will likely fall into tier two, perhaps directly “replacing” the Hawai’i Bowl.

It’s unlikely that any of these non-Hawai’i bowls would take a chance on a distant Hawai’i team, even if they finish with a very strong record. With that being said, the Arizona Bowl, which has the last choice of Mountain West teams seems to be the most likely destination.

There’s a strong possibility they will slide down to the backup tie-ins,  but that means depending on other conferences to leave slots open. For the Redbox Bowl, they would have to depend on the Big Ten or Pac-12, and the Frisco, they would have to depend on the MAC and Conference USA.

Despite all of this, there is a chance that Hawai’i still goes to the Hawai’i Bowl, due to the Hawaii Bowl being owned and operated by ESPN. ESPN can bypass conference agreements and place teams in bowls they own and operate based on factors such as geography or creating more compelling matchups.

  • In 2016, ESPN placed Idaho in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in the MAC’s slot. Additionally, they gave the American’s slot in the St. Petersburg Bowl to Miami (OH) which allowed them to place 9-3 Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl’s at-large spot versus 10-3 San Diego State.
  • In 2017, they placed Middle Tennessee in the MAC’s Camellia Bowl slot and allowing the MAC to release Akron to play in the Boca Raton Bowl and create a game pitting the MAC East Champion and the Conference USA Champion. 9-3 San Diego State would take Conference USA’s spot in the Armed Forces Bowl to play 9-3 Army.
  • Last year, they placed BYU in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and placed 10-3 Boise State in the First Responder Bowl to play Boston College out of the ACC.

ESPN can easily do this with Hawai’i and place them in the Hawai’i Bowl instead of an American team. The Mountain West has agreements with three other ESPN-owned bowls, the New Mexico, Famous Idaho Potato, and Las Vegas Bowls.

While it’s unlikely the Mountain West would give up the Las Vegas Bowl, or that the American would want to send a team that far west, the other two are more feasible, especially the New Mexico Bowl.

The American only has two bowls west of Birmingham for teams like Tulane, Houston, SMU, and Tulsa to compete for, with one being the Hawaii Bowl. The Mountain West can help the American particularly by giving them their slot in the New Mexico Bowl so Hawaii can play in the Hawaii Bowl.

With BYU taking a spot in the Hawai’i Bowl, a storyline to watch could be how the Mountain West handles Hawai’i’s bowl situation. For no other reason than geography and BYU’s independence, the Rainbow Warriors could still be staying home.

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