We've known for a while now that the Detroit Lions planned to operate their own bowl game and that it would join the Big Ten lineup.
That became official on Wednesday as both the NFL team and the Big Ten announced a six-year partnership for the game that will be played at Ford Field. The bowl does not have a name yet as it is waiting for a title sponsor. We're assuming Little Caesars Pizza won't become the title sponsor, or else it would make almost no sense for this game to replace the Little Caesars bowl already in Detroit.
Probably the biggest news from the announcement is that the game is scheduled for Dec. 30, 2014, pending TV arrangements. The Little Caesars (and when it was known as the Motor City Bowl before that) game had traditionally been held right after Christmas; last year's game, for example, was held Dec. 26. Playing closer to New Year's Eve might help fans who don't want to travel so close to the Christmas holiday and give the game more exposure. Whether you want to wake up in Detroit on New Year's Eve is a personal preference.
Still, the unnamed Lions-run bowl will be in the third of three tiers in the new Big Ten bowl selection process. That would mean the Detroit game would rank behind seven other bowls, including the Rose but excluding the playoff or a second BCS-level game. Remember, though, that the conference will look to rotate teams through different sites in a quest to keep things fresh and create good matchups, so straight pecking order won't always determine placement.
The Big Ten's opponent in the game has not been officially announced, but ESPN has reported that the ACC will provide the other team. The league had a slot in the soon-to-be defunct Little Caesars Bowl, but Big Ten teams have only actually gone to Detroit three times: Northwestern in 2003, and Purdue in 2007 and 2011.
The new bowl got off to an inauspicious start today, as the teleconference to announce the game was marred by echoes and weird music before Lions president Tom Lewand cut off his opening remarks. A few minutes of nothing but various people saying, "Hello? Hello?" followed before the call was eventually postponed. We can only hope the bowl itself will be run much better than that.
The Lions will become the second NFL team to operate a bowl game, joining the Houston Texans. Because when you hear the words "postseason football," the Detroit Lions come immediately to mind, don't they? I kid, I kid. Many Big Ten fans have told us they want a bowl inside the league footprint. Well, here you go.