Organizers seeking WAC-Mountain West bowl match

Updated: March 31, 2006, 11:21 PM ET
Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- ESPN has provided the state of New Mexico with a $2 million line of credit for a bowl game in Albuquerque, a major step toward a proposed postseason matchup of teams from the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conference.

The game, which would be played at New Mexico's University Stadium before Christmas, would be broadcast on an ESPN network.

The New Mexico Sports Authority, ESPN representatives and conference officials have submitted an application to the NCAA to become the 29th Division I bowl game. They'll make a presentation to the NCAA bowl licensing committee April 27 in Orlando, Fla.

"It looks very good right now," said New Mexico athletics director Rudy Davalos, a former member of the NCAA's licensing committee. "I think it has an excellent chance of being approved, especially with ESPN offering the financial credit."

ESPN has a history of backing bowl games. It owns and operates the Las Vegas Bowl, Fort Worth Bowl and Hawaii Bowl.

Dennis Latta, executive director of the New Mexico Sports Authority, said the state is seeking corporate sponsors to offset costs. The NCAA no longer has a minimum payout for bowl teams, but payments usually range from $750,000 to $2 million.

"There's still a lot of work to be done but we've made some progress," Latta said. "Sponsorship is probably the thing we're struggling with more than anything else right now. It costs a lot of money to put this together."

The bowl doesn't have a name yet. State officials are debating whether to sell naming rights or give it a New Mexico-flavored name -- perhaps something like the Chile Bowl.

Tom Starr, executive director of the Fort Worth Bowl, said his 2-year-old game had an economic impact between $20 million and $30 million during the past year. He said the key was landing teams of regional interest.

Latta said that's why the state wants to work with the Mountain West, which includes New Mexico, and the WAC, which includes New Mexico State.

"We considered having an at-large team, but it's just a little too risky," Latta said.

The Mountain West split from the WAC in 1999. WAC commissioner Karl Benson said their history makes the leagues ideal bowl foes.

"We've got some great rivalries," Benson said. "I've always thought teams from both conferences should continue to play each other."

A New Mexico bowl game would be the Mountain West's fourth bowl affiliation and the third for the WAC.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press