DETROIT — Last year the Mid-American Conference had a record seven teams receive bowl bids. But a changing bowl landscape may make it difficult for the MAC to repeat, or ever beat, that feat.
After this season the Football Bowl Subdivision, of which the MAC is a member, will have a playoff system.
That system, as well as the recent announcement that the Detroit Lions would operate a bowl associated with the Big Ten in 2014, has resulted in bowl lineups that directly affect the MAC.
"Being in seven bowls every year is going to be challenging, just from a numbers perspective," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. "I think, if you talk to our coaches and athletic directors, we expect to compete to get into a BCS bowl. When we get into a college football playoff, we expect to be challenging to pick up that playoff spot.
"What we do know is that we have two bowls contracted for that period: The GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho. I anticipate that we will contract for two or three more primary bowl tie-ins and I expect there will be several back-ups included in that."
Steinbrecher would not indicate the bowls the league was talking to, but gave a timetable of 30-to-90 days before announcing the arrangements for 2014.
This season the MAC has primary bowl contracts with three bowls: The GoDaddy.com Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. A "primary" bowl contract means the league will automatically send a representative to the bowl, if the league has enough teams qualify to fill its openings.
Last season the MAC also has secondary bowl contracts with five bowls: The New Mexico Bowl, the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, the BBVA Compass Bowl, the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and the Poinsettia Bowl. The "secondary" agreement means the MAC will provide a team to play in those bowls should another league not fulfill their primary obligations.
The Lions’ bowl announcement clouds the future of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which has been played at Ford Field since 2002.
"The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl has been a wonderful partner of the Mid-American Conference," Steinbrecher said. "I know [bowl CEO and executive director] Ken Hoffman and his staff are working to see what they can do to put together a game.
"We’re interested in being in bowl games. We’re interested in talking to folks who want to put on bowl games. If Ken is able to bring something forward, we’ll engage in that conversation."
Steinbrecher said the financial model for the bowl system is changing for the better.
"For one thing, there’s more money in the system," he said. "We’re getting to a point where we’re better able to cover the expenses of the institutions involved.
"The model for the bowls are changing a little bit. And our model is a little different: We don’t have a bowl deal where we say to a school, ‘Yes, you’re going to this bowl and you’re getting this payout, but you’re responsible for X number of tickets.’
"I think there were be more opportunities. I certainly believe there will be more opportunities for the Mid-American Conference. With the FBS growing a little bit, I believe we’ll be able to accommodate a few more bowls."
NEW BABY: University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell and his wife, Erica, welcomed a new addition to their home last weekend. Rudy, the couple’s first son among three children, was born Saturday.
"Finally I have someone to throw a football to, although my two little girls are probably as good or better than any 5 or 3 year olds throwing the football in the country," Campbell said.
Folks in Massillon, the football-crazed northeast Ohio city where Campbell grew up, have a tradition of giving a miniature football to newborn boys. Campbell’s father, a former high school coach, didn’t disappoint. He gifted a football to Rudy.
"That didn’t take very long," Campbell said.
PASSING BATON: Perhaps no college football coach was happier that Western Michigan hired P.J. Fleck this offseason than Campbell, if for no other reason than he will not be bothered any longer with age questions.
Fleck, 32, has ripped Campbell’s crown after one season as youngest head coach in college football.
"I will certainly hand that title over to P.J. and let him run with it," said Campbell, who shares a Nov. 29 birthday with Fleck but is one year older. "I wish him the best of luck with that title, but I’m certainly glad we’re not fielding that question this year."
Fleck, a former Northern Illinois receiver, spent last year coaching in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I didn’t get hired just because I was young," Fleck said. "Playing in this conference, coaching in this conference, being an academic All-American in this conference, coaching in the NFL, playing in the NFL, there’s not one coach in the country that has that resume. How does that transform into being a head coach? We’ll find out."