College football: San Diego glad to have BYU back in bowl game

Published: Wednesday, July 25 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

In 1998, the Holiday Bowl severed its ties with the WAC and signed agreements with the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) and the Big 12 conferences. Currently, the Holiday Bowl features the third selection from the Pac-12 and the fifth choice from the Big 12. At one time, the Holiday Bowl had the second pick out of the Pac-10 and third pick out of the Big 12.

"When we negotiated our last agreement, it got a little pricey, and we dropped to the third pick in the Pac-12 and the fifth pick out of the Big 12," Binkowski explained. "We would like to move up the next round (of negotiations). Two or three in the Pac-12 is okay. We would like to get higher in the Big 12 or maybe another conference. We'll see. That's going to be our quest, to move up."

Considering all of the changes coming to college football's postseason starting in 2014, what are the chances of the Cougars returning to the Holiday Bowl someday?

"You never say never," Binkowski said. "A couple of years ago, we had the third pick out of the Pac-10. Because the Pac-10 didn't have enough bowl-eligible teams, we almost had Notre Dame in the Holiday Bowl as an independent.

"Is there a way BYU as an independent could get into the Holiday Bowl? Well, never say never. It's possible. It's unlikely, but possible. There's so much we don't know right now. But we're confident that the regular season has been protected with this new (postseason) structure. And we're comfortable that the bowl games that we know right now will be in existence. We feel the Poinsettia and Holiday Bowls will continue to be played. We would like to continue a relationship with BYU beyond 2014 — most likely with the Poinsettia Bowl."

Binkowski foresees the Poinsettia Bowl always having a tie-in with the MWC because of geography.

"I would like to think that the Poinsettia Bowl would keep a high-ranked team out of the Mountain West," Binkowski said, adding that the future could feature deals with the Big East, which will add San Diego State and Boise State in 2013. "We'd love to have Navy, BYU, and Army part of the rotation as well."

When BYU played in five consecutive Las Vegas Bowls from 2005-2009, Cougar fans flocked to Vegas, producing memorable sellouts at Sam Boyd Stadium.

"We saw that 11 times from BYU with the Holiday Bowl," Binkowski said. "Year after year after year, BYU would send thousands of fans to San Diego in the late '70s, the '80s and the early '90s. We saw it with the Las Vegas Bowl.

"We've always coveted BYU. They have a tremendous fan base, a tremendous fan following. We think if we get the right matchup this year with BYU, it could be shades of the old Holiday Bowl. The crowds could be that big, the game could be that exciting. We couldn't be more pleased than to have BYU coming to San Diego, unless they go to the BCS."

Binkowski said the Poinsettia Bowl began modestly.

"We didn't have any great expectations when we started it. We knew it would be a bowl game in San Diego the week before Christmas. That's the slowest week of the year for our tourism industry. Our mission statement is to put people in hotel rooms. That's one of the reasons why we started it. I would say it has far exceeded our expectations. We've been able to tie in with Navy and we've had some big crowds. We had the Boise State-TCU game back in 2008."

"It's by far exceeded our loftiest expectations to this point," said Poinsettia Bowl associate executive director Mark Neville. "With this year's game, we're anticipating seeing our largest attendance ever."

Bowl organizers would love to see a BYU-San Diego State matchup, featuring the hometown Aztecs. It would be a showdown between former WAC/MWC rivals and it would pit Mendenhall against his mentor, SDSU coach Rocky Long.

"There would be a lot of buzz in San Diego for that game," Neville said.

The bowl has the second pick from the MWC. Binkowski said BYU's opponent probably won't be Boise State, since BYU and the Broncos will play in September.

"You're looking at a Fresno State, Nevada, Wyoming," Binkowski said. "We think they'll be facing an old rival. It's been almost 20 years since BYU's been to San Diego for a bowl game. We're really looking forward to this year's game."

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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