Bowl Game Is Approved For St. Petersburg
TAMPA - After listening to a presentation from officials from St. Petersburg, Tampa, ESPN and the Big East, the NCAA's Bowl Certification Committee needed less than two hours to approve a bowl game at Tropicana Field for December. And, just like that, The Beach Bowl was born. Officially, it will be called the St. Petersburg Bowl - until it lands a title sponsor. The St. Petersburg Bowl will match teams from the Big East (the fifth or sixth selection) and Conference USA (the fourth or fifth selection). Bowl officials still haven't determined a date - either Dec. 20, 22 or 23 - but they know one thing: This is a market they've sought for some time."St. Petersburg has been a location, a place we targeted for a number of years," Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli said. "It's a Big East market now with the University of South Florida. All our teams recruit here, and all of our teams, coaches and fans want to play in a bowl game in Florida." The St. Pete Bowl will be the sixth bowl in Florida, joining the Outback (Tampa), Champs Sports and Capital One (Orlando), Orange (Miami) and Gator (Jacksonville). With the Outback Bowl held Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium, the Tampa Bay area is among five communities that will host two bowl games. "Any sporting event that comes to our community and showcases our community and creates economic impact, we think is great," Outback Bowl President and CEO Jim McVay said. "This is a world-class destination for a bowl game. We think the west coast of Florida is the best bowl trip in the country." This will be the sixth bowl game owned, operated and televised by ESPN. Tickets are $30 (1-800-325-2910). "We're excited about launching a new bowl game in St. Petersburg and reaching out to the community to make sure it's a success," said Pete Derzis, senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Regional. Even with USF's proximity, Derzis said the bowl would not seek the Bulls every year. "But," he said, "we wouldn't mind having them every third or fourth year." Besides adding the St. Pete Bowl on Wednesday, the Big East changed its conference affiliation with the Papajohns.com Bowl. The Birmingham, Ala.-based Papajohns.com Bowl will now match the Big East against the No. 9 selection from the Southeastern Conference. It previously pitted the Big East against C-USA.
Reporter Brett McMurphy can be reached at (813) 259-7928 or [email protected]