The Arizona Republic
By ANDREW BAGNATO
The Arizona Republic
PHOENIX – The Insight Bowl is about to move from Phoenix to Tempe and raise its national profile by teaming with two of the nation’s top conferences.
Beginning with the 2006 bowl season, the Insight will play host to the sixth picks from the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences, ending a relationship with the Pacific-10, Big East and Notre Dame.
Payouts have not been announced, but it is expected they will increase from $750,000 per school to about $1.3 million.
The Insight Bowl appears to have outgrown Bank One Ballpark, its home since 2000. Its likeliest destination is Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium, which will lose the Fiesta Bowl to Glendale after the 2006 season. The move could be announced as early as today.
The Tempe City Council is expected to give the pact final approval on July 22.
“This takes the Insight Bowl to a whole new level,” said Richard A. Fennessy, president and chief executive officer of Tempe-based Insight Enterprises Inc., a leading provider of information technology products and services. “We’re really excited about the matchup.”
No dates are set, but officials said the game could end up on New Year’s Eve, depending on the wishes of television. The Insight’s contract with ESPN expires after this year’s game.
Officials from the Big Ten and Big 12 declined to discuss their commitment to the Insight until they had finalized all their bowl deals and received approval from conference presidents, considered a foregone conclusion.
But Insight Bowl President and CEO John Junker said both conferences had aggressively pursued the possibility of a game in Arizona.
“We were surprised that the Big Ten and Big 12 were so interested and made it such a priority to get this done,” Junker said. “Those conferences had just about everybody in ‘bowldom’ chasing them.”
The good news for the Insight Bowl comes as a blow to the Pac-10, which will be forced to fill a hole in its bowl menu. The Pac-10 has sent its fourth-best team to the Insight each of the past three years. It appears the Las Vegas Bowl could move up a slot to fourth in the Pac-10 pecking order. Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen was vacationing in Europe and could not be reached for comment.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Fennessy, Insight’s president and CEO, is a 1987 Michigan State graduate and avowed college football fan.
“When you say to the average football fan in the Valley, ‘How would you like to see Wisconsin-Texas A&M?’ they’ll be charged up,” Junker said.
According to Insight officials, the game could have paired Illinois and Oklahoma in 1999; Minnesota and Texas A&M in 2000; Michigan State and Iowa State in 2001; Purdue and Oklahoma State in 2002; Wisconsin and Texas Tech in 2003, and Minnesota and Colorado last year.
The new partnership is a big change for the Insight, born as the Copper Bowl in Tucson in 1989 and appeared to be headed for extinction before the Fiesta Bowl acquired it in 1997.
Before it snared the Insight Bowl, Tempe was reeling from the loss of the Cardinals and the Fiesta Bowl, which bring sports fans and millions in tourist dollars to downtown Tempe.