The Las Vegas Bowl is getting later, larger and more lavish.
The event announced Tuesday that starting in 2020 it is moving from Sam Boyd Stadium to Las Vegas Stadium, the future home of the Raiders, and will pit a Pac-12 team against an opponent from either the Southeastern Conference or the Big Ten.
The bowl will also move to a post-Christmas date for the first time, per a six-year deal between the event and the three conferences that runs through 2025.
The agreement means the game will be held in a larger venue, at a more convenient time for traveling fans and feature higher-profile teams than before. Previously the event featured the sixth selection from the Pac-12 and the champion of the Group of Five Mountain West Conference and was held on the first day of bowl season.
“We are truly a national bowl game now, as opposed to a regional bowl game,” Las Vegas Bowl Executive Director John Saccenti said. “We had Mountain West and Pac-12 so once we got to right around Colorado, we were done. But now we’re touching the Southeastern Conference and all the teams within the Southeastern Conference. We’re touching the Big Ten and all the teams in the Midwest and in the Big Ten Conference. So it’s truly a national game.”
The agreement calls for the Las Vegas Bowl to share the second selection out of the Pac-12 with the Holiday Bowl. In even years (2020, 2022, 2024) that team will face a SEC opponent chosen after the College Football Playoff and Citrus Bowl make their selections. The Las Vegas Bowl will split a spot in the SEC lineup with the Belk Bowl and belong to the “pool of six” that shares priority with the Outback, Gator, Music City, Liberty and Texas Bowl.
The last SEC team to play in the Las Vegas Bowl was Arkansas in 2000. The deal makes the Las Vegas Bowl the only regular bowl matchup between the Pac-12 and SEC.
“This is something our fans have been craving for,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said.
In odd years (2021, 2023, 2025), Las Vegas will host a Big Ten team chosen after the CFP, Citrus and Outback Bowl selections. It will share a spot in the conference’s lineup with the Music City Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl has never featured a Big Ten team.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this game is going to pop,” outgoing Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. “It’s going to pop on TV, it’s going to pop for our fans.”
The news leaves the Mountain West’s bowl future up in the air after the final Las Vegas Bowl under the current format is playing Dec. 21 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Pete Derzis, ESPN’s senior vice president of college sports and events, said there have been discussions of moving the previous Las Vegas Bowl matchup to a new city and venue. Scott echoed those statements and added he hoped to have news on that front in the “near future.”
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement sent to the Review-Journal that the league is “pleased with the progress we’ve made” in filling out its six-game bowl lineup but an announcement isn’t likely until its football media days July 23-24 in Las Vegas.
Growing beyond the Mountain West into an agreement featuring three Power 5 conferences should be a boon to the Las Vegas Bowl’s profile, however. The shift from a 36,800-seat stadium to one expected to hold 65,000 will boost revenue, and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill estimated the new format will double the event’s economic impact to almost $50 million.
“We’re very confident in that,” Hill said. “We’ll come together as a city to make this a great event. It’s not hard when you have these conferences and the teams that’ll be coming.”
Las Vegas Bowl’s new look
Venue: Las Vegas Stadium
Team 1: Pac-12’s second selection (shared with Holiday Bowl)
Team 2 (even years): SEC’s selection after the College Football Playoff and Citrus Bowl (shared with five other bowls)
Team 2 (odd years): Big Ten’s selection after CFP, Citrus and Outback Bowl