Kevin McDonald, executive director of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, has heard the cries that college football has too many bowl games. That includes Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson’s recent comment that the bowl system is “broken” after two Mountain West teams ended up paired together.
But McDonald said the Potato Bowl, which has a contract with the Mountain West through 2019, remains in a strong position.
“There are a lot of people who will discuss it and talk about it,” McDonald said Monday. “We’ll just see where it goes going forward. As far as I’m concerned, what we’ve seen in the postseason and the regular season is a very large appetite for college football. And we like being a part of that market.”
Last year’s game at Albertsons Stadium between Air Force and Western Michigan marked a down year for the bowl. It drew an announced attendance of 18,223, the smallest since the inaugural game in 1997 (16,131). With a driving and freezing rain, the crowd in the stadium was a fraction of that.
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The ESPN-owned bowl also hit a seven-year low in television viewers at 1.45 million, according to Sports Media Watch, ranking 34th out of 38 bowl games. The Potato Bowl had topped 2 million viewers for six consecutive years.
But McDonald hoped that moving this year’s game to a Tuesday afternoon helped fans stay warm and boosted the TV audience by keeping it away from other bowl games and the NFL. Last year’s Potato Bowl went head-to-head with an Eagles-Redskins game.
Tuesday’s kickoff was the bowl’s first weekday game since 2009.
“We’re just going to have to sit back and see how it goes,” McDonald said. “We haven’t played on a weekday for about six years. But this bowl game survived for a long time playing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays. We feel comfortable with where we’re at.”
McDonald added the first year of the college football playoffs didn’t hurt the Potato Bowl, pointing out it only added one game from the previous BCS system.
“I think the fans are happy because there is a playoff,” he said. “As long as the playoff doesn’t expand too much, I don’t think it really affects the bowls down below all that much.”