In early December, the WAC-ASUN alliance announced its ambitious plan to reach the FBS ranks, in which the whole entire conference will jump to the FBS level. Naturally, several questions emerged with bowl tie-ins being the least of these. Yet, at just the right time, there is hope for the conference's bowl hopes.
Last week, a group of organizers in Cincinnati announced they were pursuing starting a bowl game called the Cincinnati Chili Bowl. The group will conduct a feasibility study later this year with hopes of gaining certification in 2023.
Of course, to have a bowl, you need teams. While the MAC is a nearly obvious choice for one side of the bowl, the other side is more of a question. Earlier this week, I wrote about UConn taking one of the game's tie-ins. Another possibility for the bowl is sending receiving the ASUN-WAC champion should the league jump to the FBS.
Surprisingly, having an ASUN-WAC partnership could work well for the bowl game. While Southern Utah or Utah Tech winning the conference and earning a spot in the Queen City would be disastrous for the bowl, two schools from the ASUN could draw big numbers for the bowl.
Austin Peay is about a four-hour drive from Cincinnati while Eastern Kentucky's campus is around 90 minutes away. The two schools have played at Cincinnati infrequently, with Eastern Kentucky playing Cincinnati only twice, with the last meeting coming in 2008, and Austin Peay with 7 visits to Nippert all-time. A trip to Cincinnati is rare enough for both fanbases to enjoy and travel en masse.
The trip is also manageable for North Alabama fans as Florence is seven hours away from Cincinnati. Additionally, destination games are fun for conferences and fanbases alike. Much of the allure of the Rose Bowl is the fact it was the prize and desire of Big Ten and Pac-12 schools for nearly seven decades. An ASUN-WAC branding pitch to the tune of "The Road to Cincinnati" would do wonders in building excitement for the bowl.
With all the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the WAC-ASUN’s ambitious FBS plans, the Cincinnati Chili Bowl brings hope on one front for the conference. The Chili Bowl’s intrigue will rise if it is the goal that every WAC-ASUN school strives for.