Texas Bowl ‘reliant’ on strong teams, exposure

Reliant Stadium
Courtesy Photo | Houston Texans
Reliant Stadium hosts the fifth rendition of the Texas Bowl Dec. 29. Able to house 71,500 fans, the stadium has been used for concerts and rodeos in addition to football at the high school, collegiate and professional level.

By Krista Pirtle

In 3 weeks, Baylor will head down to Houston, Texas, to face the Illinois Illini in the fifth Texas Bowl held at Reliant Stadium.

This bowl is one of the youngest, with the Illinois vs. Baylor matchup only its game.

“We were very pleased today to invite Baylor and Illinois to play in the Texas Bowl,” said Heather Houston, Texas Bowl Executive Director. “Baylor fans traveled extremely well to the NCAA Championship basketball regional here at Reliant Stadium last year and we feel confident that energy will transfer to a bowl appearance as well. Illinois has a great football tradition and the largest alumni base in the country. We are thrilled that they are our first ever Big Ten participant.”

The NCAA awarded Houston with the opportunity to host a bowl game on June 27, 2006, replacing the Houston Bowl. The inaugural game was held December 28, 2006, when Rutgers defeated Kansas State 37-10, hosting 52,210 fans, the largest crowd since 1972 without any team from Texas competing.

“Anytime there’s a team from Texas, it’s a great opportunity for us. We are excited to have Baylor with their alums either living in Houston or within driving distance, which helps attendance. We’ve already heard from Baylor alums and fans and they’re excited and can’t wait to get here,” said Zac Emmons of Houston Texans media relations.

Since then, the Texas bowl has hosted TCU vs. Houston (20-13), Rice vs. Western Michigan (38-14) and Navy vs. Missouri (35-13).

Last December, it was announced that ESPN Regional Television would partner with the Texas bowl after the 2009 Texas Bowl.

With this new partnership, the Texas Bowl will host the Big 12 and the Big Ten.

Previously, it hosted the Big East and either Conference USA or the Mountain West Conference on alternating years.

This means that ESPN will broadcast for the next four years.

For the past three years, the Texas Bowl annually generated an average of $25 million; now, with ESPN, that income will increase.

“We are excited to work with ESPN to take the Texas Bowl to an even higher level of performance for our community, our conference partners and the student athletes we serve,” Houston said. “ESPN brings a wealth of resources and experience that will help the Texas Bowl rapidly reach its full potential. We look forward to working with the professionals at ESPN on this exciting project and expanding our relationship with them in the years to come.”

The Texas Bowl’s charity partner is the DePelchin Children’s Center.

The DePelchin Children’s Center serves more than 20,000 children and family members annually through 30 programs including adoption, foster care, autism, counseling services and more.

“The DePelchin relationship is one of the greatest things about the Texas Bowl and is very rewarding. When you ask the players what one of their favorite things about the bowl was, playing with the children is at the top. We donate proceeds from the Bowl each year, last year donating $100,000. The emotional reward, however, has no price value,” Emmons said.

So far, the Texas Bowl has donated $300,000 and more than $5 million in promotional support for their charity.

“The teams come and visit the day before the game, both individually. They hang out for a couple of hours, the players, cheerleaders and mascots. They play games, hang out, sign autographs bring them things like noisemakers and posters, etc. Then the kids get to go to the game. The kids don’t get this kind of opportunity to interact with people that are close to celebrities, the people these children look up to. This helps to boost their self-esteem, knowing that somebody notices them,” said DePelchin Children Center’s marketing and communications manager Jerry Heinold.

The Texas Bowl is not just about the game, but helping out its community.