Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on solid ground as landscape shifts

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comDecember 21, 2013 

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl began in 1997 as the Humanitarian Bowl. It survived as a cold-weather game, and now its place in the bowl lineup is secure moving forward.

IDAHO STATESMAN FILE

— College football’s postseason structure is changing — radically — beginning next season. But the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl isn’t changing a thing.

And that’s good for the 17-year-old bowl game.

“We found a niche,” said Kevin McDonald, the game’s executive director.

That niche is far removed from the four-team College Football Playoff and its six “BCS” level games, which begin in 2014-15. That niche, however, does mean hope of getting teams from power conferences like the Pac-12 or Big 12 are likely over.

But that’s not a bad thing for the game.

“Do you want to be a low pick in a major conference, or do you want to bring eight-, nine-, 10-win teams to your bowl?” McDonald said. “We’ve had 6-6 teams come here without coaches, teams that didn’t want to be here.”

The bowl was purchased by ESPN Regional Television this year, giving it financial stability, solid backing and a spot in ESPN’s expanding bowl coverage lineup.

The Mountain West and Mid-American agreed to new contracts to provide teams to the bowl through the 2019 season. The Idaho Potato Commission and United Heritage are locked up as sponsors through 2016.

The potato connection is ideal for a game that ran through several earlier sponsors.

“What took so long? It really helps define us as a bowl game, creates a hook of who we are, where we are,” McDonald said. “It makes it very clear we’re part of this community.”

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @murphsturph

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