Cajuns Headed For New Orleans Again??
Now that the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns are bowl-eligible for the third straight time, already speculation has started as to where they'll wind up.
That has spawned loads of questions to our show, as well as other stations affiliated with Townsquare Media, Lafayette.
Here are some frequently asked questions, along with some misconceptions of fans, that have come to the surface (and will continue to).
1. Doesn't the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl have to take the Sun Belt Champion this year?--No. They don't. Once the Sun Belt got a second guaranteed bowl tie in (godaddy.com), the agreement was New Orleans, with the first pick, had to take the champion of the league twice within a four year period. But, that's no longer part of the equation. New Orleans can take whoever they would like to have (as long as that team is bowl-eliglble, of course.)
2. Is there a rule that states a team can't go to New Orleans three years in a row?--No. There's no such rule. And as far as I know, there never has been.
3. Is it guaranteed the Cajuns will be in a bowl?--Actually, no. All bowls are contracted to certain conferences. The Sun Belt has only two guaranteed bowl tie ins: The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and the godaddy.com bowl in Mobile. The SBC champion is guaranteed a game somewhere. Now, it's likely a few of the conferences won't be able to fill their requirements because they don't have enough bowl eligble teams. If that happens, other slots become available. But there are only 70 bowl slots available. And, there will be more than 70 bowl eligible teams. Some teams will be left out in the cold (Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech were both bowl eligible last year, but did not play in a bowl game.) So, is it a guarantee? Technically, no. LIkely? Yes. We'll get to that in a minute.
4. So...the top two teams in the Sun Belt get the two slots, right?--Nope. Bowls aren't based on merit. When you see a bowl contracted to, let's say, Big 12 #4, it doesn't mean the fourth place team is in that bowl. It means that bowl has the fourth choice. They can select any of the bowl eligible teams remaining after the first three picks. In the Sun Belt, New Orleans gets the first pick. godaddy.com gets the second pick. That does NOT mean first and second place. As long as the champion has a place to go (either an SBC tie in, or an available slot somewhere else) the bowls can take who they want. Obviously, with the Cajuns' track record of ticket sales, they would be extremely attractive to the Sun Belt bowls...and probably some others as well where an opening is available.
5. If the Cajuns run the table and go 10-2, could they possibly get into a better bowl?--Define better. You've already learned about conference tie-ins. Any slots that could become available will be after every team in a contracted conference is accomodated. As an example, The #6 selection in the American Athletic Conference (formerly Big East), is slated for the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in Orlando. If the AAC can't fill that slot, it becomes available to the at-large pool. Other bowls that could conceivably become open are the AdvoCare V 100 Bowl (formerly Independence Bowl) in Shreveport, the Poinsettia Bowl (if Army doesn't qualify) in San Diego, the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Little Caesar's in Detroit...you get the idea. Here's the reality. The Cotton Bowl isn't an option. And, since bowl payouts from these bowls is based on ticket sales, there is no better financial option for the Cajuns than New Orleans.
6. With the Cajuns selling as many bowl tickets as they have the last two years, doesn't that make them more attractive than other Sun Belt teams? Yep. Which is why we say, although they aren't technically an automatic, they'll be selected before a lot of other teams simply because bowls are in the business of selling tickets. It also means New Orleans is loving the idea of the Cajuns coming back to the Crescent City. But, taking all that into consideration, a 10-2 or 9-3 Cajuns team is a lot more attractive than a 7-5 or 6-6 team because a team with more wins will sell more tickets to their own fan base.
7. If the Cajuns go to New Orleans, who will their opponent be?-That's an excellent question. The contract reads Conference USA #7. But, traditionally, after the Liberty Bowl, which gets the CUSA champion, CUSA works with the bowls and the schools to slot their other teams. Two years ago, CUSA was a team short and left New Orleans open. Last year, East Carolina filled the slot. There has been a lot of speculation there could be a matchup between Lousiana and Tulane. In order for that to happen, however, Tulane would have to be out of the running for a CUSA title, and the Wave, who haven't been to a bowl game in a dozen years, would have to agree to stay home, rather than give their team an out of town bowl experience. This matchup absolutely could happen, but it's by no means a lock.
8. What if there's a bowl open that has a higher payout?-"There are a lot of misconceptions about bowl payouts," Sun Belt Associate Commissioner John McElwain told me. The reality is, especially with the "smaller" bowls, the "payout" has everything to do with the teams ability to sell tickets. For instance, a bowl with a $500,000 payout means the school gets the money if they sell $500,000 worth of tickets. After the school sells that number of tickets, any other revenue is split 50/50 with the bowl in most cases. And remember, schools have to pay their own expenses. Outside of the BCS bowls, most of the schools that play in bowl games actually LOSE money. That's why the Cajuns love New Orleans so much.
9. Yeah...but what if the Texas Bowl in Houston has an opening? Their payout is $1.7 million!--Not so fast my friend. The Texas Bowl is contracted to the Big 10 and the Big 12. The payout is assuming the teams participating will come from those two leagues. If there's an opening and another conference gets involved, negotiations begin. And, chances are, the payout for a school from the Sun Belt becomes less...a LOT less.
10. Should I make reservations in New Orleans now?--Can't hurt. In fact, it's probably smart. Bowl bids will be announced no later than Dec. 8th. If the Cajuns are somewhere else (or if they're at home), you'll have plenty of time to cancel without penalty. Now, if CUSA offers Middle Tennessee or North Texas as the opponent, it's possible the Cajuns would opt to play elsewhere since those two teams were in the Sun Belt last year and that matchup wouldn't excite fans that much.
Hope this answered your questions (and didn't confuse you even more...if it did, that's my fault.) Here's the bottom line. New Orleans loves the Cajuns. The Cajuns love New Orleans. There's still some football to be played, but my guess is the odds are 80/20 we'll all be on Bourbon Street the weekend before Christmas. The New Orleans Bowl will take place Saturday, December 21rst, at 8:00 p.m.