Thursday, October 15, 2009

Could the Big Ten Leave Detroit?

Earlier this week it looked like a done deal that Detroit's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (formerly the Motor City Bowl) would continue to be affiliated with the Big Ten Conference, albeit as the eighth choice rather than the seventh.

However, the Big Ten's official bowl announcement for 2010-13 came and went with no mention of a Detroit game. At that point, the guess was that it just wasn't officially signed but would be worked out quickly.

Perhaps it's not that simple. The latest word out of Detroit, according to the Associated Press, is that a decision could come sometime next week. However, lost in the story is a little nugget of information that the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is in talks with the Big East to step in and face a top team from the Mid-American Conference should a deal not work out with the Big Ten.

Detroit is the capital city of the Mid-American Conference, as evidenced by the conference's championship game being played at Ford Field and the sheer number of MAC schools located within 3-4 hours of Detroit. However, it's also a huge city for the Big Ten (arguably the second most prominent city in the conference, behind Chicago). Every team but Minnesota, Iowa and Penn State is within a six hour drive.

Perhaps a bigger blow to the bowl's leaders like MSU Trustee and former coach George Perles and former Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr, losing the Big Ten affiliation would likely kill the founding dream of the bowl game, that being a contest featuring Michigan or Michigan State.

What a turnaround from a few years ago when folks in Detroit seriously talked about moving up to fourth in the Big Ten pecking order when the Alamo Bowl contract expired en route to possibly crashing the BCS someday. Now, they're in danger of losing a regional tie-in, replacing schools within driving distance with those a flight away. That would likely mean fewer fans and less revenue for a bowl game already not in a traditionally "desirable" destination.

As Perles said, we should know by next week.

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