“I would choose for us first to go to the Rose Bowl, if they’ll take us,” Kiffin said. “That’s a historic bowl we’ve been to a lot.”
Kiffin coached in three Rose Bowls as an assistant at USC, but he realizes FAU won’t be heading to Pasadena this year.
Heading into Saturday’s Conference USA championship game against North Texas, much still remains to be settled when it comes to determining the destination of the Owls’ first bowl trip since 2008.
“I don’t know the bowl thing here,” Kiffin said. “I couldn’t even tell you what the six bowls are. I’m not worried about that.”
Conference USA has tie-ins to six bowls: the Boca Raton Bowl, the New Orleans Bowl. the Bahamas Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, the St. Petersburg Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl. C-USA also holds a secondary agreement with the Independence Bowl, which would stand to have an open spot should the SEC sends two teams to the College Football playoffs.
Sources tell OwlAccess.com that FAU is interested in playing the biggest-name opponent the Owls can find. Administrators have made contact with representatives from multiple bowls outside the seven mentioned above to lobby for an invitation.
Should FAU win on Saturday, the Owls would have first choice of bowl game from among the bowls that offer them a bid (every bowl with tie-ins to Conference USA isn’t required to extend a bid to every bowl-eligible team from the conference, not even to the C-USA champion).
FAU won’t be playing in the Bahamas Bowl – UAB and Ohio already accepted bids to that game, doing so early to ensure the schools are able to obtain the necessary travel documents for their players and staff. The remainder of the bowl invitations and pairings won’t be announced until Sunday.
While the Boca Raton Bowl is considered a premier destination by most Conference USA teams – C-USA champion Western Kentucky elected to come to Boca last season – ideally the Owls don’t want to play at Howard Schnellenberger Field, and they won’t be the Boca Raton Bowl’s choice.
Florida Atlantic would prefer not to play in the Boca Raton Bowl, opting instead to double the school’s television exposure by playing in a different bowl one night and gaining publicity a second time when the Boca Bowl is televised.
The Boca Raton Bowl would prefer an out-of-town team, ideally South Florida, because it has a vested interest in bringing a team whose fans will rent hotel rooms, eat at local restaurants, etc. Plus, Boca Bowl officials know full well that FAU doesn’t yet have the fan following to fill the stands.
The Owls aren’t too keen on the idea of returning to the New Orleans Bowl, where they earned their first bowl victory back in 2007. Played on Dec. 16, that game is held on the first day of bowl season and will pit a Conference USA team against a Sun Belt team. FAU would not view a game against a Sun Belt opponent as playing the best competition possible.
Removing the possibility of an Independence Bowl bid for the time being, if the Owls are unsuccessful at lobbying a bowl outside the C-USA Six for an invite, and if they stick with the idea of playing the best team possible, they would seemingly have two main options – and that would depend on how the Owls define “best team available.”
Should they want to play the highest ranked team, that likely would dictate a match-up against South Florida, probably in the St. Petersburg Bowl. That same match-up, a C-USA representative vs. an AAC representative, is also available in the Boca Bowl, too.
If FAU defines “best team available” as a school from a Power 5 conference, one with name recognition in the football world, the Owls could opt for the Heart of Dallas Bowl, if invited, where they would face a Big 12 team – likely Texas Tech or Kansas St.
Played on Dec. 26, the Heart of Dallas Bowl is the latest of the C-USA bowls on the schedule.
FAU could end up in the New Mexico Bowl, but it’s difficult to see that bowl being eager to pit FAU against a Mountain West team.
With Kiffin as coach, the Owls will draw television viewers, but bowls are generally more interested in putting fans in the stadium seats. With a traveling fan base that could struggle to break double digits, that’s a major strike against inviting FAU as far as bowls are concerned.
That’s why a potential FSU-FAU match-up in the Independence Bowl, should Florida State beat Louisiana-Monroe this weekend to become bowl eligible, may be wishful thinking for FAU fans.
Even if all tumblers fall into place allowing for that match-up to happen, Independence Bowl organizers probably won’t count on too many Seminole fans going out of their way to support a team most have already written off by traveling to a middle-tier bowl. That could prompt the Independence Bowl to invite a C-USA team like Louisiana Tech or Southern Miss, teams with strong enough fan bases that they could entice supporters to make a relatively short drive to Shreveport, La. for the Dec. 27 game.
All of this speculation is new to Kiffin, who spent the past three seasons as Alabama’s offensive coordinator before taking over the FAU job this season.
“I don’t even know how it works at this level,” Kiffin said. “The last few years I’ve been where they pick you and if you’re in the Top 4 you go play in the playoffs. I’m not sure how it works here.”