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San Diego Might Go Bowling Twice Per Year

The folks who run the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl are trying to get a second college football bowl game for San Diego that would be held at Qualcomm Stadium before Christmas.

Organizers say they already have a major local sponsoring corporation and one football conference lined up, but are seeking another conference and a network TV partner before obtaining permission from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body for college athletics in the United States.

The Mountain West Conference, which includes San Diego State University, has expressed interest in the proposed bowl.

“The Mountain West Conference would like to play here and we’re doing our due diligence to see if we could have another bowl game,” said Bruce Binkowski, the executive director for the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.

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Binkowski said the Holiday Bowl management group hopes to line up the missing pieces for a presentation to be made in April in Phoenix to the NCAA’s governing board, which has to certify all bowl games each year.

Even with all the necessary components in place, there’s no guarantee the NCAA would give its OK, Binkowski said.

“They could say, ‘We don’t like the idea. There’s too many bowl games already,’ ” he added.

Many would agree. For the just completed college football season, 28 postseason bowl games occurred from early December to this month, including the 27th annual Holiday Bowl held on Dec. 30 at Qualcomm Stadium and won by Texas Tech University over the University of California. The event drew a sellout crowd of 63,711 fans.

Binkowski declined to reveal the name of the sponsoring company, saying there was only an agreement in principle, not any contract.

A major sponsor would have to put up at least “six figures,” he said.

Organizers have talked with the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Western Athletic Conference, but will likely approach the NCAA with only the Mountain West and seek an opponent from a nationally ranked school that is not invited to a bowl game, Binkowski said.

He rejected the idea that another local bowl, which does not have a name yet, would hurt ticket sales for the Holiday Bowl, traditionally held Dec. 30, but tentatively scheduled for Dec. 29 this year.

“I don’t think it would negatively impact the Holiday Bowl. It’s all about the matchups, and if we continue with our Pac 10-Big 12 matchup, we’ll be fine,” he said.

If the game were approved, it may start this year or next year.

“They could give us three answers: Absolutely not. Yes, let’s do it for 2005, or let’s revisit it in 2006,” Binkowski said.

Started in 1978, the Holiday Bowl was originally intended as a showcase for the Western Athletic Conference’s champion to play a high-ranked invited team.

Beginning in 1998, the game served as a contest between the runner-up in the Pacific-10 Conference and the third-place finisher in the Big 12 Conference.

If the new bowl game is approved, it would be a return of sorts for the Western Athletic Conference which used the Holiday Bowl to feature its champion against another nationally ranked school. Eight schools, including San Diego State, split from the WAC to form the Mountain West in 1999.

The Holiday Bowl has generated a nice payoff for San Diego in terms of additional income at Qualcomm Stadium, and the influx of tourism by fans of the participating schools. A study commissioned by the Holiday Bowl released last year reported direct and indirect spending from the event to be $30.3 million for the 2003 game.

Joe Moeller, the president of the San Diego International Sports Council, a nonprofit organization that seeks to attract sporting events to the area, said the proposed event sounds like it would work well.

“Any time you can bring another sporting event to our community would have a positive economic impact,” he said.

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