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NCAA approves St. Petersburg Bowl

The St. Petersburg Bowl is officially part of college football's bowl lineup.

The game — to debut at Tropicana Field between Dec. 20 and 23 this season — was approved by an NCAA subcommittee Wednesday afternoon in South Florida and will pit teams from the Big East and Conference USA. ESPN will own and operate the game as it does with five other bowls.

Of course, you have questions, so here are some answers.

What kind of teams might meet up in this bowl game?

The best teams in the Big East and C-USA will go to larger bowls, but St. Petersburg won't necessarily be stuck with unfamiliar teams. In the past two years, the Big East has seen Pittsburgh and Louisville go 6-6 and not make bowls. On the C-USA side, expect a seven-win team, such as Memphis and Southern Miss this past season.

How can I get tickets, and what will they cost?

Tickets will cost $30, less than half of the Outback Bowl's $65. Fans can put their name on a list by calling toll-free 1-800-325-2910. No date has been set for tickets going on sale. Tropicana can seat 44,000 for a football game.

Where will they put a football field in the Trop?

The field will be in the home plate corner of the stadium, extending down the first-base line into rightfield. There will be seating on two sides, and organizers haven't decided what they'll do with the infield dirt. The FieldTurf surface is the same as what Syracuse plays on in the Carrier Dome. And yes, the proposed waterfront stadium would be football compatible, so the game would move there if the Rays do.

How often will we see USF and Central Florida play in St. Petersburg?

Occasionally but not against each other. Both teams were good enough in 2007 to go to larger bowls, but when either finishes out of the top three or four in its league, St. Petersburg would be a potential match. Having a local team helps with attendance but means fewer hotel rooms, less economic impact and less national exposure for the game and its sponsors. Having a local team also can allow the bowl to invite an opponent that doesn't bring a ton of fans — the bowl must average 25,000 fans over a three-year period to stay certified.

Is 34 bowls — that's 68 college football teams — getting to be too many?

That's the likely national reaction to the addition of St. Petersburg and Washington, D.C. (The Congressional Bowl likely will pit Navy against an ACC team and be played at RFK Stadium or Nationals Park) to an already bloated bowl lineup, though Salt Lake City's bid was rejected. St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker said Wednesday, "Our city joins an elite group of only 28 cities nationwide to host an NCAA collegiate bowl game." Proponents say the more bowls, the more happy coaches and players. And if the bowls can turn a profit locally, ESPN is more than happy to give them a window on national TV. There were seven bowl-eligible teams last season that didn't have a bowl to go to, including South Carolina, Iowa and a Troy team that went 8-4.

When exactly will the bowl game be played?

Organizers have set a window of Dec. 20-23 but haven't finalized a date. The Bucs' prime-time home game Dec. 21 took the ideal kickoff time. The only night opening would be on ESPN2 on Dec. 22 (Monday Night Football is on ESPN), so the most uncontested audience for TV would be an afternoon game on Saturday, Dec. 20, which could give it the novelty of kicking off the bowl season.

Will the game be called the St. Petersburg Bowl?

Organizers will seek a corporate title sponsor who likely will pay between $350,000 and $500,000 a year for the exposure that comes with the bowl.

Times staff writer Brant James contributed to this report.

NCAA approves St. Petersburg Bowl 04/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 5:05pm]
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