By Dave Bonner, Powell Tribune
So it isn’t an ESPN bowl game.
That didn’t matter to fans of the University Wyoming and Georgia State University football teams who squared off Dec. 31 in the Arizona Bowl at Tucson. And it sure isn’t a big deal to the folks who own, promote and produce the Arizona Bowl.
In fact, it’s by design. You can add a couple of exclamation points to that statement.
Of the 40 bowl games played this year, only two were not televised and controlled by ESPN/ABC, Fox Sports and CBS.
The Tucson Bowl was one of them. It was televised nationally by CBS Sports Network, a step down from the big names in sports broadcasting (61 million households vs. 86 million households for ESPN).
The key is the matter of control. To Tucson attorney Ali Farhang, the brains and the face behind the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, it’s everything. He is the principal founder of the Arizona Bowl and the chairman of the board of the group which owns the bowl, now in its fifth year.
He and his founding partners are insistent that the Arizona Bowl is a community-driven event. That’s one way of saying that bowl decisions will serve Tucson’s interest, not national TV programming.
That starts with game day scheduling and start time. An afternoon kickoff for the Arizona Bowl on New Year’s Eve is non-negotiable.
Tucson weather delivered for the Arizona Bowl last week. Fans basked under bright sun and a temperature of 62 degrees for the 2:30 p.m. game.
Tim Medcoff, a law partner with Farhang who is also intimately involved in the Arizona Bowl, said the vision for the bowl grew out of a desire to remove “kind a black cloud over Tucson from days gone by.” He referred to the fact that Tucson in recent years had lost the Copper Bowl, MLB spring training, PGA and LPGA tour events.
The road back, in the collective mind of Farhang and colleagues, was to look inward.
“Ali’s all about promoting everything that’s great about Tucson,” Medcoff said. “That includes the sunny weather of southern Arizona, the Air Force and military presence, the hospitality of the area and the great non-profits — the people who care about making others’ lives better.”
The economic impact in the area from a successful bowl game is, of course, a big deal. But giving back to the community is not simply lip service either. The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl is one of a kind in donating all bowl proceeds to non-profits in the community.
“We do everything we can to make things better for Tucson,” Medcoff said. “We want to give back.”
And for the record, the Tucson Bowl is happy to have the CBS Sports Network as a partner.
“They told us they support everything we’re doing,” Medcoff said.
Final numbers have not been tabulated, but game producers expect that up to $400,000 in cash will be generated for non-profits of the community. That’s net proceeds from ticket sales and concessions.
Wyoming did its part. The Cowboys scored a 38-17 win over Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference on the field, but that’s not all. Some 10,000 Brown and Gold clad fans helped propel Tucson Bowl beer sales to a new record.
Kym Adair, who pulls most of the levers in making bowl operations go, said she was excited by the strong showing of Wyoming fans that pushed bowl game attendance to 36,892.
She should be.
Sales of cold ones broke the previous bowl game record by $100,000. If you’re counting, that record $100,000 translates into 14,285 more of the 16-ounce drafts sold at $7 each than in any previous year.
A new official Arizona Bowl Brew was introduced at the game, a product of the local Barrio Brewing Co. Wyoming fans gave it a big thumbs up.