DETROIT — Last year, the Mid-American Conference had five teams receive bowl bids.
This year, the MAC will at least match that number.
But that may be where the similarities between the two seasons end as the league in 2014 will partner with three newly created bowls: The Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.; the Boca Raton Bowl in Florida, and the Bahamas Bowl in Nassau.
The MAC will continue its relationships with the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.
“To have five bowls lined up … represents very solid growth for the conference,” commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “The games are in unique and interesting locations, and all should provide great experiences for our players and our fans.”
In past seasons, the conference has slotted the bowls, giving one bowl the first choice of bowl-eligible teams followed by the next until all of the bowl teams were set.
That is another difference this season, as Steinbrecher said the order the five bowls will use to determine teams has not been established. The GoDaddy Bowl will pick its participant either first or second, but the other bowls have not been slotted.
“We will work collectively with our bowl partners and our conference institutions to arrange the best matchups that we can,” Steinbrecher said. “We want to rotate our teams through as many bowls as we can, so that a school doesn’t go to the same place every year — and instead have a chance to experience the depth and breadth of our bowl agreements.
The MAC also has a secondary agreement with the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego should that bowl’s conference partners find themselves unable to provide a bowl participant. Last season, Northern Illinois went to that bowl when Army, which is tied to the bowl, was not bowl eligible.
“I’m anticipating there are other bowls who could go empty, because we’re right on that cusp,” Steinbrecher said. “For us [as a conference], that’s wonderful. We’re going to get most if not all of our bowl-eligible teams placed.”
In 2014, there are 39 bowls, including the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl that will serve as the College Football Playoff semifinals and the National Championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Should the selection committee of the College Football Playoffs judge a MAC school to be the highest-ranked team among programs from the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mountain West, or Sun Belt conferences this season, another bowl possibility emerges. That team will participate in one of the top bowls, a group that also includes the Fiesta, Peach, Cotton, and Orange bowls.
Last season, the MAC had three primary bowl affiliations: The GoDaddy and Famous Idaho Potato bowls as well as the now-defunct Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The league also was able to place teams in the Poinsettia Bowl and the Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl.
But Toledo, which was bowl-eligible with a 7-5 mark, did not receive a bowl bid.
“It was painful for all of us when we had a deserving team not have the ability to go somewhere,” Steinbrecher said. “I’m thrilled by the growth in the number of primary bowls we have, and six or seven [bowl bids] is not too difficult to believe will occur on a fairly regular basis.”
NEW LIFE: St. John’s Jesuit graduate Kent Kern is entering his junior season at Miami, and the returning All-MAC second team choice said he likes the steps the program has taken with new coach Chuck Martin.
“Coach Martin has brought a new intensity to our program that I don’t think a lot of guys have seen,” Kern said. “Practices were a lot tougher and more intense, and we got a lot done with every minute that we had.”
Last season, the RedHawks were winless, a big reason the team was picked to finish sixth in the MAC’s East Division.
“That’s not something we as players pay much attention to — I don’t, at least,” he said. “We try to take things one game at a time, put together a good game plan, and focus on our work, week after week.”