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Monday, March 7, 2011

Is a Contract with the Holiday Bowl in the Brigham Young Cougars’ Future?

The Brigham Young Cougars and the Holiday Bowl were inseparable from the bowls inaugural game in 1978 to the 1984 game that saw number 1 BYU complete its run for the national championship. BYU played in the Holiday Bowl four other times from 1989 to 1993. The Holiday Bowl was good to BYU, but several factors have prevented BYU from playing in this bowl for seventeen years running.

BYU declared independent status in football on August 31, 2010. That left BYU without any bowl tie ins. Since declaring independence, BYU has made agreements with the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl for 2012, and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl for 2013. For many BYU fans, if BYU is not playing in a BCS bowl, then the Holiday Bowl would be the first option.

I recently spoke with Holiday Bowl Executive Director Bruce Binkowski and discussed the possibility of BYU reaching an agreement with the Holiday Bowl to participate in one of the bowl’s future games. Mr. Binkowski has been with the Holiday Bowl since its inception in 1978 and has served as the executive director for 10 years.

Q. The Holiday Bowl currently has contracts with the Pac-10 and the Big XII conferences. When do they expire?

Bruce Binkowski (BB): After the 2013 Holiday Bowl. The contracts are for four years, so we have just started the second year of the current four-year cycle.

Q. My understanding is that bowls consider certain criteria when selecting teams. The criteria usually involves getting teams that will bring fans to the game and fill up the stadium, and teams that can maximize television viewers. What other criteria does the Holiday Bowl consider?

BB: You are right about bringing fans to the game and creating a game that will attract television viewers nationally. We also look at the win-loss record of teams; we want good records. We also look at the match up.

Q. With those criteria in mind, what makes BYU attractive to the Holiday Bowl? What makes BYU unattractive?

BB: BYU is attractive for all the reasons mentioned. BYU would be good for any bowl because of its tremendous history and following. BYU brings TV sets. BYU is very appealing. That is why we signed BYU for the Poinsettia Bowl. We have the conference contracts for the Holiday Bowl. It is too early to tell beyond 2013, but we had the opportunity to get BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012. It was a perfect fit, so we immediately communicated with BYU for the 2012 game.

The Holiday Bowl has worked with BYU since 1978. BYU made 11 appearances in the Holiday Bowl. Every appearance was positive. There was nothing negative. The fans were great. The teams were great. BYU is a major reason the Holiday Bowl got off to a great start and is a great bowl today. I have only positive things to say about BYU.

(Note: The Holiday Bowl organizers are also the Poinsettia Bowl organizers.)

Q. ESPN has televised the Holiday Bowl for many years. Last year, ESPN and BYU announced a special TV package. Since then, ESPN has helped BYU schedule some high profile games in the regular season. Could ESPN play a role in getting BYU and the Holiday Bowl together?

BB: No. ESPN broadcasts the game, but it is not involved with our business. ESPN does not get involved in any way.

Q. This year the Holiday Bowl had a rematch (Washington vs. Nebraska), and it wasn’t very appealing to many fans when it was announced. Normally, 2/3 or 3/4 of a team’s schedule is conference opponents that can’t play each other in a bowl game. As an independent, BYU would have no conference opponents, which increases the likelihood of a rematch, in theory. If the Holiday Bowl and BYU had a contract, would it make any special effort to avoid rematches?

BB: No. Rematches are very rare. This year was unique. We had the third pick from the Pac-10, or in other words, the second pick after the BCS. Two Pac-10 teams went to the BCS, so our pick was, essentially, the fourth pick. Washington was the only bowl eligible team left from the Pac-10.

With the Big XII, we were convinced Missouri would be our team on selection Sunday. The Insight Bowl passed on Nebraska and picked Missouri. When Nebraska is available you pick them for all the reasons already discussed. It was also our last chance to have Nebraska since they would be leaving for the Big Ten.

Q. Since the Holiday Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl organizers are the same, can the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl be viewed as an “audition” for BYU to get a future contract with the bigger, more established Holiday Bowl?

BB: No. Don’t look at it that way. We know what BYU can do. We have two games in San Diego. One was available because it doesn’t have a four-year conference agreement, and BYU could be worked in with the other independent FBS schools.

Q. What is the bottom line? What can BYU fans expect as far as a future agreement between BYU and the Holiday Bowl?

BB: It is way too early to tell. Only time will tell. At this time, all our discussions with BYU have centered around the Poinsettia Bowl. We won’t get into any discussion with our current partners until early in 2013. The Holiday Bowl has every intention of continuing the Pac-10/Big XII partnership beyond the final year of the current agreement.


Overall, Mr. Binkowski was very positive about BYU, and I believe everything he said was sincere. However, it appears the chances of BYU and the Holiday Bowl reuniting are slim. They like their current conference partners and (my interpretation is) they like the security that brings. With an independent BYU, they could be forced to have a 6-6 team or a 10-2 team. Some years BYU would be better than the fifth Big XII or the third Pac-10 selection, but, I guess, in the long run the Holiday Bowl thinks things will even out or tilt in their favor with the current conference partners. Additionally, a conference partnership provides variation; whereas, a contract exclusively with BYU would not. However, maybe 2013 comes and the Big XII is still 10 teams and the fifth pick (or sixth if two Big XII teams go to BCS bowls) represents just another 7-5 or 6-6 team. I would hope that such a scenario would get the Holiday Bowl to start considering other options—like BYU. If that is the case, maybe the Holiday Bowl would find it more appealing to have a BYU/Notre Dame deal where each school would appear twice during a four year period against an opponent from either the Pac-12 or Big XII.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at

Other recent posts on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL:
Friday Highlights: Brigham Young Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs (1991)
Thrusday Trivia: Golden Richards’ NCAA Records
Flashback: A Golden Return Man (1971)
Poll Results: What validated the BYU QB Factory the Most?
The Brigham Young Cougars Need To Have Killer Instinct


  1. How about this: Modify the contract after 2013 so that in years where BYU is ranked higher than the available teams from the Pac12 and Big12 (and isn't chosen for a BCS bowl, obviously), the Holiday Bowl can choose BYU? Clearly, the Pac12/Big12 would not like that provision, but if the Holiday Bowl pushed for it, they might get it through.

    Question is, does the Holiday Bowl really care enough about a good BYU team to risk offending their conference tie-ins with such a provision? My guess is no, the Holiday Bowl would not be willing to go to bat in such a situation. But the Holiday Bowl is the belle at the ball; they are to be wooed by the conferences, not the other way around. So that does give them the whip hand to some degree. In addition, if BYU really tears it up in 2011 and 2012, the Holiday Bowl might be salivating at the prospect of BYU such that they are willing to build such a provision into the contract.

  2. That is a good suggestion. Sounds like the deal that got BYU to the Cotton Bowl in 1996.

    I don't think it would work from the Pac-12 side, but could from the Big XII side. I think 5th pick is a bad for a bowl that will pair with the 3rd Pac team. However, the Big 12 could always point to the last two years where the Holiday Bowl has gotten the Big 12 runner up.

    It would be another good way for BYU to show to the Big 12 that BYU would make a good conference member if BYU was beating out Big 12 teams for the Holiday Bowl spot. But, that is only if it happened and would have no influence in any decision.

    What I learned from this is that it really is up to BYU to do as you said--tear it up and make bigger bowls want them. (And it will probably take 6-8 years.) Otherwise, BYU will be stuck with third/fourth tier bowls.