It seems as though it is a match made in sports heaven. The New York Yankees, one of the most storied sports franchises rich with history, and the Big Ten, one of the classic football conferences in the country with much pride in their own piece of sports history, have been united through a new contract for the Pinstripe Bowl. The Big Ten, the Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl have agreed on an eight-year contract that will send a bowl eligible team form the Big Ten to play in Yankee Stadium from 2014 through 2021.
“The Big Ten Conference playing college football at Yankee Stadium is something I know my father would be proud to see come to fruition,” said Hal Steinbrenner, New York Yankees Managing Partner, in a joint release by the Yankees and Big Ten. “He had a great passion for college football and spoke glowingly of his involvement with several of the conference’s programs. Welcoming a national powerhouse conference like the Big Ten to participate in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and partner with the New York Yankees for years to come only expands the prestige of our great annual bowl game in New York City.”
In the three Pinstripe Bowls that have taken place since its incarnation, the attendance has been roughly between 38,000 and 39,000 for the baseball stadium that has room for a little more than 54,000 fans for a football game (which is also about 4,000 more seats than for a baseball game). The game has had contracts with the Big 12 and Big East. Each of the three bowl games has included either Syracuse or Rutgers, representing the Big East. Syracuse is heading to the ACC this season and Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten in 2014 while the remainder of the Big East has joined up with a handful of schools from Conference USA to form The American. As a result the Pinstripe Bowl, not ready to close up shop, has had to seek other potential partners with hopes for more stability and perhaps even a fair ticket sales future.
The Pinstripe Bowl has seen a slight increase in the total attendance over the three years it has been played, but much of that can also be credited to the teams involved. In 2010 the game featured Syracuse and Kansas State with 38,274 tickets sold. The following year included Rutgers and Iowa State (38,328) and last year’s game featured Syracuse and West Virginia (39,098). It would seem that the game is fueled by fans that can easily travel to New York, so having Syracuse and Rutgers play has been an advantage to the game’s attendance. Replacing the Big 12 fan bases with Big Ten fans that may be closer should help with attendance most years. Still, losing Syracuse could be a minor problem in other years as well unless the ACC happens to join the Pinstripe Bowl and the Big Ten in a new partnership.
What remains to be seen now is what conference will join the Big Ten in this postseason bowl game. I have said before that the ACC would be a terrific fit for the game, and could lead to some potentially entertaining match-ups even for a lower-tier bowl game. With Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh adding to the conference’s northern footprint, it could be an idea worth exploring for the ACC.
The Big Ten is believed to have officially replaced the Big 12 as a partner conference. Playing a postseason game in New York never truly made a lot of sense for the Big 12, and the conference would be better off staying closer to home in the postseason the way the SEC, Pac 12 and ACC tend to do. The Big Ten, on the other hand, is looking to expand on postseason opportunities in the north. In addition to this deal with the Pinstripe Bowl, the conference is also reported to be looking to add a new postseason game in Detroit with the cooperation of the Detroit Lions. This new potential bowl game would replace the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit’s Ford Field and would give the Big Ten one more postseason game within it’s own footprint.
Kevin is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.