Should Nashville Sports Council Shift Focus From Bowl To Kickoff Classic?

If this exciting and unique announcement from the Nashville Sports Council is any indication, never has the SEC’s long-term relationship with the Music City Bowl been more unclear.

Maybe the SEC and MCB get an agreement in place and the bowl will again be a fun New Year’s holiday destination for fans of schools like Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Wake Forest and NC State. Even if that happens, is that the best case scenario for the Nashville Sports Council?

I’m not sure it is.

Yes, the Music City Bowl has grown since 1998 and positioned itself nicely, nestled among ESPN’s New Year’s Eve (or a day or two before) television schedule. The writing on the wall; however, is that the bowl may have peaked. There were years when Kentucky fans couldn’t wait to get to Nashville and quickly bought up every seat at LP Field. Tennessee and North Carolina played to a great crowd in Dooley’s first year in 2010. In 2008 and 2012, the Anchordowns Commodores won bowl games. Sandwiched between those years, Mississippi State played Wake Forest and I’m still not certain anyone in the city of Nashville knows it.

What now? Vanderbilt has rented the facility twice, but the fans and alumni are ready to actually take advantage of the fun a bowl game can provide and that’s travel somewhere outside the state. Kentucky fans enjoy Nashville, but you’ll more than likely have to combine the Wildcats’ wins over the last four years to get them bowl eligible in 2013. Even if they were bowl eligible, do you want Kentucky playing in your stadium in December after the new has already worn off for the fans that drove to Nashville in August for an “in-state” game versus Western Kentucky?

The point I’m trying to make is the shelf life of Nashville’s bowl may have expired. There are no indications that the bowl will grow any further than what it is now moving forward into the era of the College Football Playoff [echoing PLAYOFF PLAYOFF PLAYOFF]. The liklihood of Nashville being part of the New Year’s Day lineup in the next 10 years is zero.

New Year’s Day will  again be a sacred bowl day begining in the season of 2014. Not only will New Year’s Day be special, but New Year’s Eve will be special as well with the first of the two semifinal games being played that night. What do you do if you’re the Nashville Sports Council? Host a bowl game on December 30th with mid-tier SEC/ACC/B1G teams? I’m not sure that’s going excite anyone.

The only guaranteed solution is to redirect the resoures spent on the post-season Music City Bowl and use them to create a unique and successful Kickoff Classic. A couple of months ago In March, I gave a formula that could attract top-tier teams to Nashville on Labor Day weekend for a unique Kickoff Classic format that Nashville could call its own.

The model can be the same as the bowl game, but the limitations of what teams you can bring to town are removed. True, Nashville Sports Council’s ability — or inability — to woo a top-tier program to take part in a Kickoff Classic in Nashville would be exposed. Conventional thinking says that we could at least bring two teams with cache equivalent or better than the mid-tier SEC and ACC teams that play in the bowl game. Even in the event that you get a mid-tier team from the SEC, ACC, B1G, Big 12, the interest created relies on the hype and playing up to college football fans in this market.

Advantages of a Kickoff Classic to post-season bowl, let me count the ways:

  1. Both teams are undefeated coming in to a Kickoff Classic.  The best we can do the first year is NC State vs. Arkansas. So what? Is there an Arkansas fan alive at this exact moment that does not believe their calling of the hogs cannot will their team to a 12-0 regular season and the SEC West championship?
  2. Along that same line of thinking — is there an Arkansas fan that really wants to watch a team in December that has proven their pitch-perfect hog call was not enough to get them above  seven wins? Put away your calculator. The answer is no.
  3. How about the weather? I can guarantee you that a 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. kickoff on Labor Day weekend will be warm. I can guarantee you the weather in late December could be  warm. Could be rainy. Could be a tornado. The morning could be 68 degress, the afternoon severe thunderstorms and the evening 31 degrees and snow flurries. Oh, and windy. Very windy.
  4. How many college football fans in the South have a running countdown to their mid-tier bowl game? Again, trash your calculator. The answer is, ZERO. How many college football fans in the South are counting down to the start of the season and their team opens the season at home in a noon kickoff versus Moonpie University? The answer is, again, dang near everyone of them.
  5. We are Nashville. Can we not trip five musicians walking up and down Lower Broadway and have them put on a concert to kick off the entire weekend and pair that nicely with the huge high school game noted in the above link that I wrote about in March?

The answer to every question is an emphatic, “YES!” Maybe we are simplifying the process and don’t recognize the challenges, but the advantages of  football in September/late August far outweight late-December college football in Nashville.

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4 Comments

  1. Steve Haley says:

    very very thought-provoking. I am not so sure we should limit this to the big boys of the SEC though. How about a TSU vs Grambling game? For it to be successful kick-off classic would have to center it around an event. How about the Tennessee Hall of Fame Game??

  2. Hosie says:

    Yes. Because remember that time you was like, “MAN! I can’t WAIT until the Music City Bowl!!!!”

    Me neither.

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