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Friday, April 15, 2005
Bowl moved to earlier start, leads into Peach

Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La. -- This year's Independence Bowl will have the earliest kickoff since 1996.

The game, which matches teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12, will be played at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 30 and broadcast by ESPN.

"Generally speaking, it's probably a little bit better (for ratings) to have a night game but a lot of that depends on the matchup and who you're leading into," said Independence Bowl executive director Glen Krupica. "We're leading into the Peach Bowl which is usually a highly rated game."

Bowl officials have little say in determining the date and time slot, Krupica said.

Iowa State beat Miami (Ohio), 17-13, in the 2004 Independence Bowl. The 2004 game, with a 5:30 p.m. kickoff, grabbed a 2.79 rating on ESPN, down from its 3.7 rating for the 2003 game.

The Independence Bowl also falls at the start of a long weekend of football. Not only will there be the standard bowl games on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but it's also the last weekend of the NFL's regular season.

"That complicates matters a lot and limits the prime-time availabilities," Krupica said.

The Dec. 30 date does allow for teams and fans to begin arriving after Christmas. The 2004 Independence Bowl was on Dec. 28 and bowl officials believe many fans didn't want to travel so close to Christmas.

"It works out pretty good," Krupica said. "If there's a Friday when people aren't working during the year, it's probably that one. There's also a chance that people can head back that day or stick around and enjoy the market."