One of the most significant statements to come out of Tuesday's press conference was Pete Boone saying Rebel fans had bought right at 16,000 tickets already – and counting. Ole Miss fans at the game in Dallas on Jan. 2 should top 20,000 in number.
Another was the fact that it appears Ole Miss-Texas Tech, each making its fourth trip to this bowl game, will be watched by a record Cotton Bowl crowd of more than 80,000. It will likely be the second-most attended bowl game of the year after the Rose Bowl.
So any concerns that football fans might not necessarily buy in to an Ole Miss-Texas Tech matchup have been put to rest. There's a lot of interest, and Rebel and Red Raider fans will be there.
Rick Baker from the Cotton Bowl talked about the final game in the current and historic stadium and the move to the Cowboys' new billion-dollar stadium in Arlington beginning next year. The move means no longer will officials, fans, teams, etc., have to worry about weather for the Cotton Bowl since the new stadium has a retractable roof.
Beyond that, Baker admitted the Cotton not only wants to be the best bowl possible but would like to become a member of the BCS championship series. It's thought given the history and tradition of the Cotton Bowl (which began in 1937), an old stadium and potential weather problems were detractors in the bowl being involved in the rotation in the first place.
For years the four bowls considered the biggest and more traditional were the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Cotton. The first three, along with the Gator, Sun, and Fiesta bowls, were part of the original BCS rotation, which was started in 1992 and called the Bowl Coalition. The Fiesta, with its first game in 1971, was by several decades the newest of all those involved.
In 1995 the Cotton, along with the Gator and Sun, was dropped from the series, and the Bowl Alliance was formed involving the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta, all warm climate or indoor games.
So the Cotton hopes to get back into the mix at some point, and a move to a stadium where weather is not a factor is important to its efforts. Certainly the Cotton Bowl does everything else as well as anybody. That's always been its reputation, and Ole Miss saw that first-hand five years ago.
The Ole Miss players and staff will gather in Dallas on Dec. 26. That's a week prior to the game itself. Boone, Houston Nutt, and all those involved continue to stress that they want the bowl experience to be as memorable as possible for the players. That plan is obviously in place and moving forward.
Baker said the Cotton Bowl game of 1976, which featured Arkansas and Georgia, was the best attended Cotton Bowl of all time. It's hard to believe the largest crowd wasn't a game involving a Texas team. Ole Miss had beaten Georgia during the regular season that year but didn't play Arkansas.
Now it appears Ole Miss and Texas Tech will send the game to the new Cowboys' facility with its largest attendance ever – weather permitting, of course.
Baker reminded everyone the temperature was in the 70s every day the Rebels were in town five years ago. Gameday was perfect football weather as Ole Miss beat Oklahoma State 31-28.
The AT&T Cotton Bowl is doing everything right to get back into the BCS mix. In the future when there is an expansion of the series and a restructured playoff format, there's a good chance it will be included again. And rightfully so.
Cotton Bowl on its way back
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