Conference realignment may be in full swing again after Brett McMurphy reported Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff visited SMU and San Diego State this week. Earlier this week, I covered how this could positively impact a couple of PAC-12 bowl partners. However, to the Arizona Bowl, this development may be alarming.
A little over a month ago, the Arizona Bowl suffered its lowest attendance since it’s inaugural year as 27,691 fans (including my mother, younger brother, and I) watched Wyoming play Ohio. While Wyoming fans typically travel well to bowl games, asking fans to make a 14 hour drive to a bowl they appeared in just three years before is no easy task.
While attendance at the Arizona Bowl has always been respectable, this year’s game brought the glaring absence of southwestern schools to light. None of the three Mountain West members that are less than 500 miles away from Tucson, New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State, have appeared In the seven editions of the Arizona Bowl.
Now with the potential of San Diego State leaving for the Mountain West, that number could become smaller. While San Diego State has always been a consistent bowl team, they have always been a hot commodity among the ESPN-owned bowls which explains their absence from the Arizona Bowl. Yet, their consistently always made them a viable option for the bowl game.
If San Diego State leaves, the Arizona Bowl would have New Mexico and UNLV be the most attractive geographic options as both schools are less than 450 miles from Tucson. After these two schools, the next closest school to Tucson is Fresno State at 702 miles away or a 10-hour drive away.
The main problem with UNLV and New Mexico is their lack of success. New Mexico has not been to a bowl since 2016 and have only been to 2 bowls since 2008. UNLV on the other hand, has only been to one bowl since 2000 and none since 2014.
The problem grows when one considers that the New Mexico Bowl would have New Mexico at the top of its list the next time the Lobos are now eligible as the Lobos both have not appeared in the bowl since 2016 and their last four bowl appearances are in the New Mexico Bowl.
This leads to a precarious situation for the Arizona Bowl where they are forced to compete for the Mountain West’s biggest brand names like Air Force and Boise State, or settle for a distant program that may not travel well.
While many realize it is obviously in the Mountain West’s best interest for San Diego State to stay in the conference, the Arizona Bowl should also be rooting for the Aztecs to stay in the conference.