Sun Belt May Add Third Bowl in Little Rock

The Sun Belt Conference hopes to add a third bowl game and Little Rock may end up being the site of that game thanks to changes at other bowl sites.

A new bowl game is reportedly being planned for Detroit's Ford Field pitting the Big 10 Conference against the Atlantic Coast Conference. The game would be sponsored by the NFL's Detroit Lions. The move would likely result in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl being forced out of the domed stadium.

Publicly officials from the bowl are indicating that the game would consider moving outdoors and playing at Comerica Park, home the Detroit Tigers. The Pinstripe Bowl played a Yankee Stadium was cited as a similar situation of a winter outdoor bowl game.

Privately, two sources have indicated, the game is looking to relocate further than across the street to a baseball stadium. While message board speculation has focused on Indianapolis and Saint Louis, two northern cities with domed stadiums and proximity to Mid-American Conference schools, the sources say that Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium is in contention to host the event.

Previous reports over the past year have indicated that there has been interest in Little Rock to get a new bowl game certified. Stories of interest from Little Rock first appeared in early 2012 and were mentioned again in a recent Associated Press article.

One of the sources indicated that moving the existing Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl to Little Rock would simplify the certification process for Little Rock. To gain certification a bowl must meet certain financial requirements set by the NCAA and have commitments from two different conferences or independent teams to play in the bowl. The conferences or teams have to have on average qualified enough bowl eligible teams over the past four years to be expected to have schools available to play. A bowl may sign a contract with a league that has more agreements than history indicates they can honor but the game must sign one or more "back-up" agreements with conferences or teams that have not over committed.

If the game were to relocate to Little Rock, the Sun Belt Conference and Mid-American Conference would be expected to sign with the game. The bowl, with the expected loss of the Big 10 to the new Detroit game, needs a second conference tie. Reportedly all the FBS leagues contacted by the game declined to sign to play the MAC in Detroit for the 2014-2017 bowl cycle before the game lost access to Ford Field.

Little Rock's effort will depend on finding sufficient financial backing to meet the NCAA requirements. Those requirements include a letter of credit sufficient to insure the participating teams are paid in the event the game experiences financial distress. The game's current financial backing is tied to Detroit and would not be expected to follow the event outside the city.

If Little Rock is able to secure sufficient financial support, the game would relocate to the city after the 2013 game. A local bowl director would be hired and a bowl committee would be selected to promote the game to local sponsors and ticket buyers, as well as establishing events in the area to promote the game throughout the year and to raise money for any charity supported by the game.