For years, the East-West Shrine Bowl (or East-West Shrine Game at that time) was a fixture of the Bay Area, starting at first at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium, the former home of the San Francisco 49ers, in 1925 and then moving to Stanford Stadium, host of Super Bowl XVIII from 1974-2000. The Oakland Coliseum (pre-Mount Davis) and Oracle Park even had brief cups of coffee hosting the country's oldest college football all-star game.
This year, the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility gets the honors. How did we fall so far in less than 20 years?
Last week, Brett McMurphy reported the East-West Shrine Bowl would move from Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium to the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, TX, home of the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility. This move is likely due to Allegiant Stadium hosting the Super Bowl nine days after the East-West Shrine Bowl and to preserve the grass. Whether this is a multi-year move remains to be seen.
Attendance indicates this move may be an upgrade for the game's atmosphere as Allegiant Stadium had a sea of empty seats in each of the two years it hosted the Shrine Game. Still, purists like me believe the all-star game deserves a venue of more repute than an NFL practice facility. Winter in Dallas is no joke, but TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium, SMU's Gerald Ford Stadium, or even Frisco's Toyota Stadium seem more dignified than the Ford Center.
The East-West Shrine Bowl at the very least deserves either a pro stadium or a venue synonymous with college football. The Star's only connection to college athletics is the fact it hosted Conference USA's basketball tournaments and its other most famous tenant was the Texas Revolution of Champions Indoor Football.
In this day and age with nearly, if not every single game in America being streamed or broadcasted on television, the luster and frankly, utility of all-star games has declined. Scouts can see any player in the country if they wanted to. These games sadly seem to be mere formalities and opportunities for organizers to make money.
Conference realignment even has a say in this as occurrences like USC and UCLA being in a conference with Rutgers and Maryland and the Big 12 stretching from Orlando to Lubbock, Texas have significantly diminished the excitement and rarity of matchups between the East and West. The question of whether Eastern college football players are better than their Western counterparts is nearly answered every week, who needs an all-star game to answer that nowadays?
The Shrine Bowl has noticed this and even made their team format geographic in name only, as both teams are divided by how they fit in offensive or defensive schemes.
The Senior Bowl is the preeminent all-star game in college football only because of their longstanding partnership with the NFL. The East-West Shrine Bowl noticed this, started its own partnership with the league, and is experiencing its own resurgence as a result.
This is one of the saddest pieces I have had to write. I have always loved all-star games and it's a wonder that the East-West Shrine Bowl has survived longer than a tackle football Pro Bowl with college football's decentralized nature. The move of the East-West Shrine Bowl is a sad day for college football, but just another indication of the new era of college football.