Ever since the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and the PAC-12 went their separate ways like Journey, attendance at Phoenix’s second bowl has been in decline. The 2021 edition of the game between West Virginia and Minnesota drew 21,220 fans while the next year, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin brought 23,187 fans.
Even though the Big Ten had previously had a tie-in with the Guaranteed Rate Bowl from 2006-2013, resurrecting this partnership in lieu of the Pac-12 was never a good idea as Nebraska is the closest Big Ten school to Phoenix at over 1200 miles away. To make matters worse, the closest Big 12 school to Phoenix is Texas Tech at over 700 miles away.
Luckily, Big Ten and Big 12 expansion has come at the right time. BYU’s addition to the Big 12 is a huge win for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl as they now have an opportunity to host a national brand in BYU. The bowl has long had its sights set on BYU as it had a backup tie-in agreement with the Cougars during this bowl cycle when the Cougars were independent.
The Cougars draw well in Arizona, with 50,000 fans showing up to State Farm Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals for a face-off against Arizona. In BYU’s only appearance in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, 45,122 fans saw the #22 Cougars beat Oklahoma when the game was known as the Copper Bowl.
Of course, on the Big Ten side, the additions of USC and UCLA is welcome news for the bowl. While it may be tougher for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, which has the second-to-last selection of Big Ten teams, to land USC, UCLA playing in the bowl is a realistic possibility. The Bruins played in the 2017 edition and drew 32,859 fans.
In the event the Big Ten’s bowl partners do choose to pass on USC due to the far distance between them and the Trojans, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl would land the Trojans for the first-time ever.
While the current situation for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl is not optimal, Western additions to the Big 12 and Big Ten bring some hope for Phoenix’s overshadowed bowl.