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New Orleans Bowl Moves to Friday (in New Orleans)

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New Orleans Bowl Moves to Friday (in New Orleans)

New Orleans Bowl Moves to Friday, Dec. 22 (ESPN)

Playing on Friday, Dec. 22, 'benefits' postseason game

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

By Ted Lewis (who told me the game is back in New Orleans)
Times-Picayune Staff writer

The New Orleans Bowl no longer will lead off the bowl season.

But to local organizers, that's a good thing.

This year's game will be played Friday, Dec. 22, giving the bowl the first weekend time slot in its six-year history.

"It was nice being the first bowl, but it's more important to grow the event in New Orleans," said bowl executive director Billy Ferrante, who worked out the new date with ESPN, which will televise the game. "This benefits the hospitality community because people are more inclined to travel towards the end of the week.

"More importantly, it should help us entrench ourselves in the local community because Friday night is a more natural night to get out than a Tuesday. That's our best opportunity for growth, and playing on Friday night gives a big leg up in that department."

The New Orleans Bowl, matching the Sun Belt Conference champion against a Conference USA team, has been the first bowl game of the year since its inception in 2001.

But because of its early date, particularly in 2002, 2003 and 2004 when it was played on the second Tuesday in December, it ran into conflicts with final exams and fans had difficulty making a mid-week trip before the Christmas holidays began.

Last year's game was played Dec. 20 in Lafayette because of damage to the Superdome from Hurricane Katrina.

Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters, who put together the bowl and served as its first executive director, said the move should prove beneficial.

"The TV numbers have been good because we were the first bowl game, but the closer you can get to the holidays, the better," he said. "This eliminates the practice conflicts we had with the high school championships and sometimes the Saints and especially the conflicts with exam schedules. There are a lot of positives all the way around."

While the bowl has the date it sought, it does face other challenges.

Wyndham Hotels, which signed a title sponsorship agreement in 2004, dropped it last year when the game was moved because it has no properties in Lafayette and now is out of the picture altogether.

Ferrante said he was optimistic about finding a new title sponsor.

"We have a financial model in place that allows us to operate without one," he said. "But having a sponsor allows us to put some finer touches on the game and eventually take it to a different level."

Also, the bowl faces recertification later this month. The game was granted conditional approval last year, even though it has had problems meeting the NCAA minimum average attendance requirement of 25,000.

Last year's game between Southern Mississippi and Arkansas State drew 18,338, but Ferrante said because of the circumstances the NCAA had indicated it would be granted an exception.

With the New Orleans Bowl set for Dec. 22, the GMAC Bowl on Dec. 20 in Mobile, Ala., becomes the first bowl game.

The Fort Worth Bowl had occupied the Friday night slot being taken by the New Orleans Bowl. That game will be played Dec. 23.
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New Orleans Bowl Moves to Friday (in New Orleans)

I think this is great news. I agree that this time slot will create more attention to the bowl and offer a greater opportunity for fans to travel. I personnally would love to spend some money in New Orleans this December.

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