Like Cary Elwes said in Saw, "To overcome something, you have to understand what a perfect engine it is." And if the Syracuse Orange are going to chain themselves to a dingy bathroom pipe and stare across at the Minnesota Golden Gophers wondering which one is going to saw their leg off first, well then we better understand what the hell we've gotten ourselves into.
Let's learn a little something about this…how do you call it…Texas Bowl?
So, back in the day (2000), there was something called the Houston Bowl. It's kinda the perfect bowl for discussing the insanity that is the bowl system, especially when it comes to sponsorships. It was initially called the galleryfurniture.com Bowl (lowercase on purpose). By 2002, it became the EV1.net Houston Bowl (no one knows what EV1.net was, not even its founders). The bowl featured some fairly suspect match-ups of Big 12 & Conference USA teams that we shall never speak of again.
Fun Fact: After the 2005 game, the bowl game didn't immediately pay out the $600K it owed to the two conferences involved. We're guessing that debt was satisfied, but the idea of a bowl game raking in dough and not even paying the schools for their free football teams is hilariously-awful.
In 2005, EV1.net bailed and the game was actually handed over to the Houston Texans, who rebooted it as the Texas Bowl. Texas Bowl enthusiasts will tell you that their bowl is different than the Houston Bowl, but for all intents and purposes, it's the same game.
The "first" Texas Bowl in 2006 was between Rutgers and Kansas State (SUNJ won, 37-10). You might remember that as "The Greatest Season In The History Of Rutgers Football.*" We just went 6-6 and ended up in the same place.
In 2007, the bowl got an attendance dream match-up between TCU & Houston, followed by 2008's Rice vs. WMU, 2009's Navy vs. Missouri and 2010's Illinois vs. Baylor. ESPN purchased the game from NFL Network in 2009 as well.
In 2011, the game name was changed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, not to be confused with the Meineke Car Care Bowl that took place in Charlotte, which is now the Belk Bowl (got that?). That deal was good for three years, but, Meineke apparently opted out early. Now it's back to being the Texas Bowl after only two years as The MCCBOT. Meineke is really finicky about their bowl game sponsorships, you guys.
Coincidentally, or not at all coincidentally, the executive director of the Texas bowl left to "spend more time with family" this summer. The bowl game is still looking for a replacement sponsor.
Fun Fact 2: According to Sports Illustrated, Western Michigan was required to purchase 11K tickets at full price in order to accept to be invited to play in the bowl in 2008. The school went on to sell 548 tickets and ate a $462,535 loss, before travel expenses, for the privilege of playing in the game.
The game pays out $1.7M to each school (which actually means each conference). It also averages roughly 63K in attendance each year (71K capacity), though last year's contest between Minnesota and Texas Tech saw only 50, 386 announced, the lowest output since the bowl rebooted. In other words, they're really counting on you, Syracuse Fan, to make it out to this one.
No team has ever won the Texas Bowl more than once, and in fact, Minnesota will make "history" as the first repeat team at the Texas Bowl. Believe it or not, they don't just invite Houston or any other Texas school every season. Syracuse will be the first ACC school to play in the Texas Bowl. The Big 12 is currently the only conference with multiple wins in the game (2-3). The Big Ten is 1-2.
The game is routinely high-scoring, at least for the winning team. Six of the seven winners have scored at least 33 points. Both teams have combined for 50+ points in the last two contests.
If the photo above is any indication, the MVP gets to wear a giant cowboy hat. I really, really, really want to see Jerome Smith wearing a cowboy hat, you guys.
Before the game actually begins, the real excitement might be the pre-game festivities. Each year, both teams head to George Ranch Historical Park where they square off in seven Rodeo Bowl competitions, including an offensive line dance-off, hay bale toss, mascot lasso contest and a race to tackle and chalk brand a live calf.
Incidentally, the 'Rodeo Bowl' champ is 5-1 in the actual Texas Bowl. The only one not to do it? Minnesota, last year.