- Brett McMurphy, College football reporter
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Because college football's Power Five conferences prefer to play each other in bowl games, the smaller conferences are exploring opportunities to create additional bowl games next season, sources said.
As many as nine locations are under consideration to begin bowl games in 2014, according to sources: Miami, Orlando, Little Rock, Ark.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Los Angeles; Ireland; Dubai and either Toronto or Nassau, Bahamas.
Any new bowls created in 2014 would be for the smaller conferences: the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt. An NCAA moratorium to add new bowls expires after the 2013 season.
"The smaller 'Group of Five' conferences are exploring adding bowl games because they are being locked out by the big boys," a source said. "They're looking to create bowl games so their teams will have bowls for their bowl-eligible teams."
This season is the last of the current four-year bowl cycle. A new six-year bowl cycle begins in 2014. This year's bowl lineup consists of 35 bowls; 16 pitting the Power Five leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12) against themselves. That leaves the remaining 19 bowls as possible destinations for teams from the "Group of Five" conferences.
The biggest problem for adding more bowls is not having enough bowl-eligible teams. In each of the past two years, there were 72 bowl-eligible teams for 70 spots – and that included 6-7 UCLA in 2011 and 6-7 Georgia Tech in 2012 each receiving an NCAA waiver to play in a bowl.
Although the 2014 bowl lineup has not been officially announced, there will be more games between the Power Five leagues after this season. Sources said there will be a minimum of 19 bowls matching Power Five conferences and that number could go even higher.
Ken Hoffman, chairman and executive director of the Little Caesars Bowl, told ESPN he has been in contact with officials from each of the smaller "Group of Five" conferences about starting future bowl games in Ireland, Dubai and either Toronto or Nassau.
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco has said his league is looking to start a bowl in Miami that likely would be played at Marlins Park. Sources said the American Athletic Conference is seeking a Power Five opponent but may end up with a "Group of Five" conference opponent.
Two campus sites are also being considered: UCF in Orlando (MAC, Sun Belt, C-USA and American) and Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton (C-USA or MAC versus Sun Belt).
A potential bowl at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock is expected to pit C-USA versus the Sun Belt, a source said. The Christmas Bowl or Los Angeles Bowl, to be held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, is trying to secure a game pitting the Mountain West annually against either the Pac 12 or American conferences.
The Rose, Sugar and Orange bowls -- which also will be part of College Football Playoff's semifinal rotation -- have already announced that when they are not hosting a semifinal, they will pair Power Five conferences against each other starting in 2014. The Alamo Bowl (Big 12 vs. Pac 12) also officially announced its future conference affiliation.
Other bowls expected to host exclusively Power Five conferences starting in 2014 include: Belk (ACC vs. SEC), Buffalo Wild Wings (Big 12 vs. Pac 12), Capital One (Big Ten or ACC vs. SEC), Gator (ACC or Big Ten vs. SEC), Holiday (Big Ten vs. Pac-12), Kraft Fight Hunger (Big Ten vs. Pac 12), Meineke Car Care of Texas (Big 12 vs. SEC), Music City (ACC or Big Ten vs. SEC), Pinstripe (ACC vs. Big Ten), Outback (Big Ten vs. SEC), Russell Athletic (ACC vs. Big 12), Sun (ACC vs. Pac-12) and a yet to be named bowl in Detroit (ACC vs. Big Ten).
The Liberty, AdvoCare V100 and Military bowls also could match Power Five conference teams, sources said.
At last month's SEC spring meetings, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said his league "probably but not exclusively" preferred to play the other Power Five leagues going forward in the bowls. Sources said the reason is simple: The teams from the bigger leagues draw better television ratings and have bigger fan bases to travel.
1dBrett McMurphy and Adam Rittenberg