Because there is no such thing as too many bowl games, ESPN announced today that it – in partnership with the Mid-American Conference and the Sun Belt Conference – will air the Camellia Bowl, starting in Dec. 2014. The Camellia Bowl will be played before Christmas each year, will be held in the Cramton Bowl stadium in Montgomery, Ala. – a newly renovated venue that holds 25,000 – and will be broadcast either on ESPN or ESPN2.
While the bigger conferences are sticking to themselves and not letting the smaller ones into their treehouse, a "Group of Five" conferences – Sun Belt, MAC, Mountain West, Conference USA and the newly formed American Athletic Conference – are trying to find locations for bowl games of their own. Montgomery was only one of the proposed sites, along with Los Angeles, Miami, Boca Raton and Orlando, Fla., and international bowl games that would be held in Dublin, Dubai or Toronto. This drive for more bowl games is good for the fans who have nothing else to do around Christmastime, great for ESPN and their sponsors, and decent for the host cities that may see a revenue spike with the traveling fans. It also gives the players of these smaller schools the ability to play on national TV, though with the advent of deep sports cable, most of their games are on national TV anyway.
The Camellia Bowl is the state of Alabama's third bowl game, along with the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham and the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile. Montgomery and the Cramton Bowl also hosts the Raycom College Football All-Star Game, a showcase for college football talent: similar to Mobile's Senior Bowl, an important college football showcase event for NFL scouts. The Cramton Bowl has undergone a $10 million renovation: including a new press box facility, locker rooms and VIP hospitality accommodations.
The concern over the new College Football Playoff, a four-team playoff which begins in 2014, was a decreased value in the non-championship bowl games. This, apparently, isn't the case. With college football at the height of its popularity, and its new method of crowning a national champion starting next year, the bowl system is expanding further, allowing ESPN and other networks to air games that have little to no actual meaning. While another low level bowl game isn't something many fans are asking for, there's a reason why ESPN is eager to keep the business growing.