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Big East vs. C-USA bowl may debut Dec. 21, 2008 in St. Pete
Posted Mar 26, 2008 by Brett McMurphy
Updated Mar 26, 2008 at 12:19 AM
For University of South Florida fans wanting to attend the Sun Bowl last December, Bulls fans had to travel halfway across the country.
This December, they may only have to travel a few dozen miles to St. Petersburg if a new proposed bowl game pitting the Big East against Conference USA is approved by the NCAA in late April.
A proposed bowl game to be played at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field starting this season will be submitted to the NCAA’s bowl certifying board by Tuesday.
“We have been exploring with a number of partners, the viability of launching a bowl game in St. Petersburg,” said Pete Derzis, senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Regional.
The game, to be televised on ESPN or ESPN2, would pit teams from the Big East Conference and Conference USA and is tentatively scheduled for Sunday night, Dec. 21, a Rays official said. If the Rays’ outdoor stadium is built — if approved, it would open in 2012 — the bowl would move there.
Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky and Big East associate commissioner John Paquette had no comment Tuesday night.
The bowl, which likely would be named the St. Petersburg Bowl if a corporate sponsor can not be obtained, would be the sixth bowl run and operated by ESPN. The network’s other bowls: Las Vegas, Hawaii, Armed Forces, Papajohns.com and New Mexico.
“We’re involved in a process which requires NCAA bowl committee certification before anything is official,” Derzis said. “We have a tentative plan in place and continue to work on that plan with a number of stakeholders in the market. St. Petersburg is extremely attractive and our potential conference partners have indicated a desire for a Florida experience.”
The St. Petersburg bowl would make the Tampa Bay area the fifth community to host two bowl games along with Orlando (Champs Sports, Capital One), New Orleans (New Orleans, Sugar); Phoenix/Glendale, Ariz. (Insight, Fiesta); and San Diego (Poinsettia, Holiday).
The Outback Bowl, played at Raymond James Stadium, has been held annually in Tampa since 1986.
Two years ago, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese told the Tampa Tribune about an interest in starting a bowl game in St. Petersburg. However, it was expected it wouldn’t begin until the league’s current bowl agreements end after the 2009 season.
After the NCAA is presented with the proposed bowl game information for the St. Petersburg bowl, the NCAA’s bowl committee certification can approve the bowl by late April.
The addition of the St. Petersburg bowl would give the eight-team Big East seven bowls in 2008 along with the BCS, Gator/Sun, Meineke Car Care, Texas, International and Papajohns.com.
If approved, the St. Petersburg bowl will become the third collegiate bowl in the Tampa Bay area, joining the Outback Bowl and the defunct Cigar Bowl, held in Tampa from 1947 to 1954.
In other USF news: during Tuesday’s spring practice, FB Richard Kelly (hand), RB Ashton Samuels (shoulder) and RB Moises Plancher (elbow) all left with injuries.
DB Danny Verpaele was wearing a boot on his left foot, but Coach Jim Leavitt did not know the extent of the injury.