The Las Vegas Bowl has been played annually since it was first introduced in 1992. In that time, it has never had a matchup between two teams from power conferences. If the bowl game has its way, beginning in 2020 that may change. That is some unfortunate news for the Mountain West Conference.
According to a report from Brett McMurphy, formerly of ESPN, the Las Vegas Bowl will be looking to go a bit more big time with its game beginning in 2020. A brand new football stadium in Las Vegas is expected to open that year with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders moving to become the Las Vegas Raiders. But the new stadium is also expected to become a more attractive destination for a postseason bowl game, and the Las Vegas Bowl is the obvious game to benefit with a new state-of-the-art facility in its neighborhood. The game has previously been played in Sam Boyd Stadium, home of UNLV football and located away from the main attractions in Las Vegas.
As reported by McMurphy, the Las Vegas Bowl will retain its partnership with the Pac-12 but will end its long-running alliance with the Mountain West Conference. In place of the MWC, the Las Vegas Bowl will look to secure another tie-in contract with another power conference. Given the pending upgrade for the bowl game in the new Las Vegas football stadium, that may not be hard to come by. The SEC has quickly become one of the more intriguing options as the two conferences rarely cross paths in the bowl season.
Regardless of what power conference ends up signing a contract with the Las Vegas Bowl, this leaves the Mountain West Conference in an unsettling spot. The Las Vegas Bowl has long been considered the top bowl destination for the conference outside of landing a team in a BCS or New Years Six bowl game. A chance to go up against the Pac-12 awaited the conference a total of 15 times, including last season’s game between Boise State and Oregon. The Las Vegas Bowl was the top bowl tie-in for the conference last season and additional bowl tie-ins were arranged with the Potato Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Arizona Bowl and the Cactus Bowl.
The Mountain West Conference isn’t the only one that could be harmed by this news. BYU, which has played in the game once since going independent, would also be losing out on a possible bowl partnership in future years. BYU has a strong history with the Las Vegas Bowl, playing in five straight games from 2005 through 2009 as a member of the MWC, and then once again in 2015.
Bowl tie-ins are periodically re-negotiated, so the Mountain West Conference has some time to begin evaluating other options to replace the Las Vegas Bowl.