Last week, the ACC backed out of their agreement with the Independence Bowl in the next cycle of games. This decision had a domino effect with speculation emerging that the Pac-12 would likely back out of their tentative agreement with the bowl as well.
If only there were conferences willing to add another bowl with teams that were geographical fits. These events are a golden opportunity for the Independence Bowl to form an agreement with the American, Conference USA, and even the Sun Belt to gain new life.
The Independence Bowl has attracted the likes of college football blue bloods like Notre Dame and Alabama in its past, but the expansion of bowl season over the past 25 years has caused the bowl to lose its luster.
As a result, the bowl was towards the bottom of both the ACC and SEC’s selection orders. From 2014-2019, the bowl had to resort to its backup tie-ins with the American and Conference USA three times.
The Independence Bowl was not going to have great turnouts for matchups like UCLA-Boston College. While the Independence Bowl thinks Power Fives will draw because of name recognition, only a few teams have brands of that magnitude.
Conference USA and the American have a plethora of schools in the region that would draw respectable numbers for the bowl. Conference USA has five schools in or near Louisiana, with Louisiana Tech only an hour away. Rice and Southern Miss are also only four to five hours away, while UAB is only seven hours away.
The American has three schools in Louisiana and Texas, with Houston four hours away and Tulsa is a logical participant only six hours away from Shreveport.
The Independence Bowl can also get creative and use the rotational model that other bowls have adopted. The Sun Belt has schools that are geographical fits for the game, especially Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe, with ULM less than two hours away.
Another option for a possible rotation would bring a lot of flair to the game. This option is none other than Army, who rotates as a participant in the Armed Forces Bowl and is likely to do so again.
They will need a bowl tie-in in years they do not participate in the Armed Forces Bowl now that they’re regularly good enough to attend, and the Independence Bowl is a logical match for a service academy. Army brings a national brand to the bowl and the Independence Bowl even expressed interest in them last year.
The Independence Bowl must no longer focus on trying to be a big-ticket bowl in the Power Five. These schools don’t want to play a mediocre team in Shreveport when they can play a more comparable opponent in a more attractive location.
As a result, the Independence Bowl should focus on making a quality regional match-up. Even under a new agreement, the Independence Bowl still has the chance to host a name-brand school in Army.
Group of Five conferences would value the history of the Independence Bowl when many of their bowls lack that trait. In the end, the Independence Bowl needs to be reasonable and start a new era with the Group of Five.