NCAA ban likely means no Medal of Honor Bowl in 2016

Fans cheer as teams take the field during the Medal of Honor Bowl on Jan. 10, 2015 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. (File photo)

The NCAA has approved a three-year moratorium on new college football bowl games. The decision, which would prevent any new bowl games until 2019, likely means no Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston in 2016, bowl chairman Tom McQueeney said.

“If I had to guess, I’d say there might not be a 2016 game in Charleston,” McQueeney said. “But I would not say definitely not. There may be some daylight for us to have a game.”

McQueeney received a phone call from the NCAA on Monday confirming the decision by the NCAA’s Division I Council. The ruling comes after a 2015 bowl season in which there were not enough bowl-eligible teams to fill berths in a record 41 bowl games. Three teams with losing records participated in bowl games last year.

“I would not disagree with their conclusion,” said McQueeney. “In fact, I anticipated this would be their conclusion. But the way they’ve done it is a little bit different. I thought they might cap the bowl games at 40 or so and let survival of the fittest determine where the games are. But they are saying no new bowl games can be certified until 2019.”

McQueeney announced last fall that the Medal of Honor Bowl would switch from an all-star game format, which it had for two years, to a traditional bowl game pitting schools from two different conferences. That decision came after the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds prompted the NCAA to lift a ban on “pre-determined events” in South Carolina.

McQueeney said it’s possible, if not likely, that the shutdown of another bowl game could open the door for a game in Charleston before 2019. Returning to an all-star game format is also possible, he said.

“Where that maybe leaves us some daylight is in games that don’t resurface,” he said. “Maybe for financial reasons they don’t continue or they get dropped by TV. The NCAA is saying no new games, but they are not saying what happens if they lose games. Can they resurface in the interim? That could be tested.

“But even then, the game has to be certified, and that’s still up to the NCAA.”

McQueeney plans to attend an upcoming meeting of the Football Bowl Association.

“How vehement would conference commissioners be about replacing a game if one falls by the wayside?” he said. “I just don’t know.”

Returning to an all-star game format almost certainly would require a title sponsor, McQueeney said.

“That’s certainly an option,” he said. “We did two years without a title sponsor, and it’s certainly a pressurized financial situation without a title. We’d need to go back with a title sponsor in hand, and that’s certainly possible.”

Myrtle Beach and Austin, Texas, are cities also seeking to host new bowl games.

The NCAA last issued a three-year hold on new bowls in 2011. When that moratorium was lifted, six new bowl games — not counting the College Football Playoff — were added.

Last year, according to ESPN, a record 63 percent of the 128 FBS teams earned bowl bids, including three 5-7 teams (Minnesota, Nebraska and San Jose State). The Arizona Bowl was forced to pit two teams from the same league, the Mountain West.

For McQueeney, the NCAA ruling is another setback in his long quest to bring a bowl game to Charleston.

“I’m disappointed for the state of South Carolina,” he said. “We were moving toward having a game in 2005, and political reasons we had nothing to do with kept us from having a game 11 years ago. Now, the timing is such with the onslaught of bowl games that the NCAA is in the situation where they had to make this call, and again it hurts South Carolina. We’ve never had a bowl game here.

“I’m disappointed for our committee that has worked so hard, and for our community and state. But I’m not giving up the fight.”