Only One Bowl Better Than New Orleans – From the Bird’s Nest
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns won their fourth straight R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl last week, beating Nevada 16-3.
But, despite many media outlets explaining the situation, there are still many fans who think going to New Orleans means the Cajuns' program has become stagnant.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
The reality of the situation is, unless the Cajuns make it to a Big Six bowl game (Sugar, Fiesta, Rose, Peach, Cotton or Orange), there is no better bowl for the Cajuns to play in than the one played the weekend before Christmas in New Orleans.
Reality is, there is no in between bowl for the Cajuns that would be better.
The Sun Belt Conference has three bowl tie-ins: New Orleans, Mobile (GoDaddy) and Montgomery (Camellia). Those are your choices. Pick one.
All other bowls are contracted to other leagues. In other words, unless a league can't fill it's slots, bowls like the Liberty, Independence, Texas, Armed Forces and the like simply aren't available.
There are opinions that, if any of those bowls would be available, it would be better for the Cajuns since they might get to play a team from one of the Power 5 conferences. And, a win in one of those games would mean more from a publicity standpoint than beating East Carolina, Tulane or Nevada.
While that argument may have merit, the reality is first, the bowl would have to have an at-large opening and second, they would have to want the Cajuns to be there. In most years, It simply isn't going to happen. In addition, bowls that would be available for the Cajuns would not have a guaranteed payout. That means the money the program would get would be directly related to ticket sales. In most cases, that would mean the athletic department would face a deficit playing anywhere besides New Orleans.
The new agreement states one school from the Group of Five (MAC, Mountain West, American, Sun Belt and Conference USA) is guaranteed a slot in one of the Big Six bowls. But to get there, UL would have to go undefeated or, in some years, 11-1 in order to qualify.
Had Louisiana gone 10-2 this year, guess where they would have played??? That's right...New Orleans.
So, in most years, it's either have a storybook season or play in a Sun Belt bowl.
There is no in between.
Cajun die-hard fans know and understand this. But many Cajun fans simply don't know how the bowl system works.
Now, if your response to that is, we need to be in a different league, consider this:
The next logical step, conference wise for the Cajuns would be Conference USA. Their bowl tie-ins are in great locations...but would cost the athletic department a lot of money.
Hawai'i? Great. Bring 1,000 people to the islands. The Cajuns would probably lose about a million dollars. Bahamas? Great beaches. Again, you bring 1,000 people and in many cases, have fans scrambling for passports. Boca Raton? Nice city. Nearby beaches, not as expensive as the islands. But you're still not bringing more than a few thousand folks and that means another financial deficit. New Mexico? Do you really want to play in Albuquerque?
The only bowl game that is tied in to CUSA this year that would be semi-attractive would be the Heart of Dallas bowl, where Louisiana Tech played this year. The Metroplex has plenty of attractions, it's readily accessible, being only six hours away. Fans could travel and make it financially feasible. But is that where you want to spend Christmas? (the bowl was on December 26th at 11am.)
When you get down to it, New Orleans makes more sense than ANY of those bowl games.
Next season the Sun Belt picks up another bowl tie-in with the Cure Bowl in Orlando. There are many fans who would welcome the opportunity to spend a few days with Mickey Mouse and cheer on the Cajuns the weekend before Christmas. It wouldn't be a money maker but fans would want to go. And, sooner or later there will have to be another destination for the Cajuns, just to show they can sell tickets to a venue not located indoors in New Orleans, just two hours from Lafayette. There are worse places than Orlando.
But until that comes, fans need to quit looking at the Crescent City as a consolation prize.
Because for the time being, it's the best the Cajuns are going to get.