NCAA approves T.O. Bowl game

MIKE ULMER and MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

The first NCAA football game in Canada is coming to Toronto.

The International Bowl will be held Saturday, January 6, 2007 at noon at the Rogers Centre and was approved by the NCAA yesterday.

The game, which will be shown live on ESPN, will feature the second- or third-rated team in the Mid-American Conference against the fourth- or fifth-rated club from the Big East.

"It's a great, great opportunity for 15,000-20,000 people coming to follow their teams. They would likely stay the entire weekend," International Bowl executive director Ken Hoffman said.

International Bowl media relations director Don Loding said a four-year agreement is in place with the Rogers Centre and ESPN. Loding hopes to have the game on TSN in Canada.

The Mid-American Conference is home to such schools as Toledo, Bowling Green and Western Michigan. The Big East includes Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia and Louisville. Teams must finish at least 6-6 to be eligible for Bowl play.

A team of municipal officials and promoters were given the green light for the venture yesterday in Orlando as the NCAA approved four new Bowl games, raising the total to 31. A bid to stage a game in Toronto last year was turned down.

The only NCAA game held outside the United States happened in Havana, Cuba in 1937.

The NCAA requires Bowls to pay a minimum of $750,000 US to each team. The International Bowl has not unveiled sponsors, but Loding said an announcement on sponsorship will be made at a later date. Loding has experience with Bowl promotion, having worked for the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.

The International Bowl will be played two days before the U.S. national championship -- the new fifth Bowl Championship Series game, which will be played Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

Organizers believe they can exploit the potent college football brand here in the land of three-downs and envision a crowd between 25,000 and 35,000.

"I think there's clearly a taste and an interest in U.S. football," Hoffman said. "The Argos have told us they would be interested in cross-promoting."

Duncan Ross, Toronto's director of tourism, said, "The economic impact of the Motor City Bowl would be similar and that generates a $15 million churn in the local economy."


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