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Published: Saturday, 5/19/2001

Motor City Bowl goes primetime

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

For the first time in five years the Motor City Bowl finally has what it considers a prime playing date.

Executive director Ken Hoffman said yesterday that the 2001 game will be held Saturday, Dec. 29, at noon. The game, played in the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., will air on ESPN.

The past four years the Motor City Bowl had been contested twice on a Wednesday, and once each on a Monday and a Friday.

“We have never before had the luxury of a Saturday date,” Hoffman said. “We believe this will encourage more fans from the state and the region to attend the game. ESPN offered the date to us and we grabbed it.

“The public perception is that bowls that are played closer to New Year's Day are the more significant bowl games. This moves the Motor City Bowl into closer proximity with New Year's Day.”

Also for the first time, the Motor City Bowl will pit one of the Mid-American Conference's top teams - it is no longer guaranteed the league champion, as in the past - against a bowl-eligible team from Conference USA.

That's because the MAC signed a deal with the newly created GMAC Bowl last month to send a team to Mobile, Ala., to play the runner-up from Conference USA, on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. The game will be played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and will be on ESPN2.

The deal is for two years with an option for three more years, and also gives the GMAC Bowl the option of selecting a Southeastern Conference team if it does not want to choose any of the eligible MAC teams.

The GMAC Bowl, formerly the Mobile Alabama Bowl, will get first crack at what MAC team it wants to invite, ahead of the Motor City Bowl. But if the GMAC Bowl would snub the MAC's league champion, that team automatically would go to the Motor City Bowl.

Hoffman, a University of Toledo graduate, said he is not bothered by the arrangement.

“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “This is the first time in the MAC's 54-year history that it will have two bowl partners in the same year. Mobile needs to get off on the right foot with the MAC, and the No. 1 selection affords them a great opportunity to do so.

“It also gives the Motor City Bowl the flexibility for a selection that is in the best interest of both the bowl and the conference.”

This past season the two MAC teams with the best records - 10-1 Toledo and 9-3 Western Michigan - were shut out of the bowl picture after four-time champion Marshall beat the Broncos in the conference championship game.

The Motor City Bowl and GMAC Bowl will both have a payout of $750,000 per team.



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