DETROIT — The Mid-American Conference is well positioned for more bowl game bids moving forward.
Whether that means more bowl wins is another matter entirely, however.
The MAC has secured at least six guarantee bowl game slots each year beginning in 2020. The conference is locked into four bowl games every season, and will fill at least two spots in a group of seven other bowl games.
With secondary agreements with a couple of other bowls, and the probability of filling more than two spots in the rotating group of seven bowls, it’s entirely possible the MAC could be looking at seven or even eight bowl games slots for the next six-year cycle.
“We feel really good where we came out on that,” said MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher during the conference media day on Tuesday at Ford Field.
“We got some neat bowl partners, we got neat bowl locations.”
The MAC has had at least five bowl teams in every season since 2011. The conference had six bowl teams in 2018.
It’s the wins in the football postseason that have been nearly impossible to come by.
The MAC is just 13-33 (.282 winning percentage) in bowl games since 2011. Since 2016, the conference is a combined 2-15 in three bowl seasons. The only wins have come from Ohio in back-to-back years in 2017 and ’18.
That bowl record has become a matter of importance for the conference, Steinbrecher admitted. It’s been a hot topic of conversation this spring.
“If I could put my finger on it I’d had have it corrected tomorrow,” he said. “I’m not sure what the answer is on all that.
“What’s remarkable to me is we can do so well in September and October in non-conference games and then in the last three, four-plus, years we’ve not done very well at all in bowl games.
“It’s got to change,” Steinbrecher said. “It just flat-out has to change.”
The MAC will continue to get opportunities to reverse its postseason fortunes. The conference will have five guarantee slots for the 2019 postseason including mid-December dates at the Bahamas Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl and the Camellia Bowl. The MAC will also play in two bowl games after New Year’s with spots in the Potato Bowl (Jan. 3) and the Mobile Bowl (Jan. 6).
2019 is the last season of the current string of bowl agreements for the conference. But the MAC is set up to only increase its bowl opportunities with the next six-year run beginning in 2020.
The MAC has already secured spots in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit (against the Big Ten), and will have a spot in the newly announced Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl against the Mountain West Conference. The MAC will also continue to be involved every year in filling the Bahamas Bowl (Conference-USA/AAC) and the Potato Bowl (Mountain West).
In addition, the MAC will have — at a minimum — at least two spots in a collection of seven bowl games. The MAC will be slotted into a different pair of bowls each season on a rotating basis, and could be a wild-card fill-in in others. The rotating bowls include old standards like Mobile and the Camellia Bowl, new bowls in Myrtle Beach and New Mexico, and relatively-new bowls in Boca Raton, the Cure Bowl in Orlando and the Frisco Bowl.
The MAC’s recent bowl history didn’t impact the ability of the conference to line up additional spots in the new cycle, Steinbrecher said. But hasn’t changed the need to win more of them.
“What we’re doing is not working, so try something different,” Steinbrecher said. “I hope everybody goes to talk to coach (Frank) Solich because he’s on a bit of a roll there.”
The Bobcats, under Solich, have the conference’s only bowl victories in the last three years. Ohio’s head coach said no one from the conference has picked his brain yet about what to do differently to get ready for bowl season.
“There’s no question as a conference we’ve got to show better there,” Solich said.
“We do feel we have a good model for preparing for bowl games,” he added. “The right amount of work against time off. Getting guys a chance to heal, having energy when kickoff comes at a bowl site. Going there to have fun and to win a game.
“We’ve found an approach that works for us.”