Everyone loves multiple trips to the Caribbean, right? Maybe not if you are a collegiate athletic department. Conference USA will have to avoid this predicament this year with one of its schools after the Cayman Islands Classic, an early season men's basketball tournament on the island, released its field.
Florida International was one of eight teams announced for the field of the tournament. This compounds on an already precarious bowl situation for Conference USA, who only has seven schools that are eligible for bowls with Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State transitioning to the FBS level.
The Bahamas Bowl's options look even more limited with this announcement. Before the end of June, Conference USA has only six realistic options to invite to the Bahamas Bowl.
While in-person attendance has never been the Bahamas Bowl’s focus, but rather TV ratings, selling tickets is always a win. ESPN runs the bowl, but people forget The Bahamas gains valuable tourist revenue from the bowl. Several people who may never make a trip to the Bahamas have a reason to visit whenever their favorite school plays in the game.
Following this logic, FIU is an attractive team to the Bahamas Bowl committee. Naturally, Florida International is the best fit for the Bahamas Bowl as not only is their campus less than 200 miles away from Nassau, Bahamas, but the Panthers are located in a travel hub in Miami.
Given FIU’s last appearance in the Bahamas Bowl was 2018, this year would have been a perfect year to make their return to Nassau five years later. Yet, despite everything that makes FIU a great candidate for the Bahamas Bowl, their potential absence may not make a difference at all.
FIU’s 2018 appearance in the Bahamas Bowl drew 13,510 fans which is in line with the attendance figures of every other Bahamas Bowl. Every Bahamas Bowl except for the 2022 edition drew between 13,000 and 13,700 fans with the 2022 edition drawing 12,172. Furthermore, FIU’s 2018 appearance isn’t even the most-attended Bahamas Bowl.
Early-season college basketball tournaments are great for fans and players, but occasionally they create conflicts between collegiate athletics’ other main tourist opportunity, bowl games. In theory, the inability to invite FIU should hurt the Bahamas Bowl, but numbers say otherwise.