SBJ/May 28 - June 3, 2001/This Weeks Issue

Forecast in Florida cloudy for bowl in need of naming-rights, TV deals

The Sunshine Football Classic, aka the Micronpc.com Bowl, the Carquest Bowl and the Blockbuster Bowl, may not be back at Miami's Pro Player Stadium this year after being played there for the last 11 years.

The bowl faces a June 15 NCAA deadline to make final some aspects of the game, including location, television and a letter of credit guaranteeing the minimum required bowl payout of $750,000 a team. The bowl received conditional certification from the NCAA in April.

The problem for bowl organizers is that the game's contracts with a title sponsor and television partner have expired, leaving organizers scrambling to attract much-needed financial backing to support the game, said Mitch Morrall, executive director of the Sunshine Football Classic.

Micron Electronics, the game's most recent title sponsor, had a year-to-year sponsorship deal with bowl officials since 1998 but declined to renew its deal for this year, Morrall said. Meanwhile, the game's television partner for the last three years, TBS, also chose not to renew its contract, he said.

So far, bowl officials have had discussions with several prospective partners, but according to Morrall, "nothing's concrete."

"All of our contracts came up at once, and with the economy the way it is this is not a good situation to be in," Morrall said.

The bowl would like to sign a long-term $1 million-a-year deal with a title sponsor as well as a long-term deal with a television partner. Without those contracts, Morrall said he is unsure whether the game will be played this year.

Morrall said the bowl's board of directors and officials from Raycom Sports, the Charlotte-based company that holds television and sponsorship rights to the event and underwrites the game's letter of credit to the NCAA, were scheduled to meet last Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to "hash out the options and make the best decision for the game's future."

  NEVER ON FRIDAY? Southeastern Conference members will discuss the NCAA's recent decision to lift its ban on televising Friday night football games — a move that threatens to shake up what has traditionally been the night for high school football — at its spring meetings this week in Destin, Fla., and may decide to propose conference policy that would prohibit televising SEC football on Friday nights.The issue has already had a lot of discussion among SEC members, and it will be up to the presidents of member institutions to decide whether they want to approve a proposal, said Charles Bloom, assistant commissioner of media relations for the conference.

"The SEC never plays football games on Fridays anyway, so there may be a sense that since we've never done it before, why do it now?" Bloom said. "On the other hand, we may all decide that we should put it on paper to officially say we will never do it."

An official conference stance against Friday night football would be similar to a policy adapted by the Atlantic Coast Conference earlier this month at its spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla.

The SEC's spring meetings run Tuesday through Friday. Other issues that will be discussed include the awarding of future championship sites, bowl game participation and NCAA issues.

  MCC SURPRISE: The Midwestern Collegiate Conference has scheduled a VIP reception and dinner at the NCAA Hall of Champions next Monday to unveil an "exciting new direction" for the conference. Conference officials would not say what they are planning to announce but said it would be significant.

The MCC is based in Indianapolis and comprises eight schools: Butler, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Illinois at Chicago, Loyola-Chicago, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wright State.

Jennifer Lee can be reached at jlee@amcity.com.

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