Gator Bowl moving to CBS
New television network deal will allow Jacksonville bowl to increase payouts to teams.
By GARRY SMITS, The Times-Union
The Gator Bowl is returning to its television roots.
The New Year's Day bowl game will be televised on CBS beginning with the 2007 game, after 11 years on NBC. The Gator Bowl's first telecast, in 1954, was on CBS, the first of of 10 consecutive seasons in which the game aired on that network. CBS also televised the 1986 and 1987 games.
Kickoff will be changed from 12:30 p.m. to either 1 or 1:30 p.m. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the Gator Bowl will be able to increase its payout from $1.6 million per team to $2.5 million per team, said chairman Scott Keith.
"We had a wonderful relationship with NBC, but we couldn't be more thrilled about going to CBS," Keith told the Times-Union.
The Gator Bowl had been on NBC since 1996, and had been the only bowl game the network televised. CBS has one other postseason college game, the Sun Bowl.
With the exception of a seven-year period between 1989-1995, the Gator Bowl has been televised on one of the three major networks every year, either NBC, ABC or CBS.
"We made a commitment, 10 years ago, that network TV and New Year's Day were very important to us," Keith said. "If we want to achieve economic growth for Jacksonville and continue to have a chance to one day host a national championship game, we needed that visibility."
Mike Aresco, the senior vice president of sports programming for CBS, said the network was "elated and excited" about its agreement with the Gator Bowl, and pointed out that Jacksonville now has a presence on CBS with the Gator Bowl, the Jaguars and the years CBS decides to televise the Florida-Georgia game.
"This is a first-class game at a first-class venue," Aresco said. "We wanted a New Year's Day game that started in the afternoon, and we like the game and the time slot a lot."
There are ample opportunities for cross-promotion of the Gator Bowl on CBS NFL telecasts. But Aresco said the decision to air the Gator Bowl "was made on its own merits."
"[Gator Bowl president] Rick Catlett and his people run one of the best bowl games in the country," Aresco said. "We want to help take it to a new level."
The new deal with CBS will coincide with the Gator Bowl's ground-breaking conference affiliation arrangement from 2007-2010. The Gator Bowl will match a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference against a team from either the Big 12 or the Big East. The Big 12 and Big East will have teams in the game for two of the four years, but the Gator Bowl can bypass a Big East team for Notre Dame once.
It's the first time a bowl game has more than two conference affiliations.
"We're very confident that there will be a great matchup every year," Aresco said. "We're excited about the chance to show some teams and conferences that don't usually appear on CBS."
NBC had given the Gator Bowl permission to negotiate with other networks, but had the right of first refusal. When Gator Bowl officials relayed offers from CBS and ABC, NBC declined to match the offers and the Gator Bowl went with CBS.