By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
UPDATE AGAIN: Notre Dame has accepted a bid to the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. So the idea below is dead.
UPDATE: UNLV Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy, the former director of the Las Vegas Bowl, told the school newspaper that Notre Dame is considering the Hawaii Bowl.
NOTE: I wrote this last night, before Chris Petersen took the Washington job. I have no idea how Petersen’s departure will affect the Broncos’ bowl situation.
Could the two biggest free agents in the college football bowl market find each other in paradise?
Notre Dame holds the key to how the final open spots in the bowl system will be handed out. The Irish would be welcome anywhere. They’ve been projected by most to end up in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City and courted publicly by the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
But according to this story from ESPN.com and this story from the Chicago Tribune, the Irish want to play before Dec. 29, they want to go somewhere warm and they don’t want to play in an ACC-affiliated bowl because they will be part of the ACC’s bowl lineup next year.
There is not a game with an opening that fits that criteria.
But there is the potential for a deal that the Chicago Tribune hinted about in the story linked above: the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu.
The Hawaii Bowl is a popular trip with players, but it’s a difficult trip financially for the Mountain West and Conference USA. Notre Dame isn’t worried about finances.
Notre Dame, which played in the BCS National Championship Game last year, played in the Hawaii Bowl in 2008 vs. Hawaii.
So could the Irish broker a deal that would give them a spot in Hawaii? Maybe.
And who could the Irish play that would be an attractive opponent?
The other team floating around the bowl system looking for the right matchup: Boise State.
The idea of a Notre Dame-Boise State bowl matchup has been around for weeks. Many people projected it in the Poinsettia Bowl before they realized that the Poinsettia has a backup agreement in place with the MAC for ineligible Army.
The Poinsettia Bowl, in San Diego, also could be a factor in the Notre Dame sweepstakes if it could find a favorable landing spot for its MAC team — Buffalo in the Pinstripe Bowl, perhaps?
The Poinsettia Bowl has the second pick of Mountain West schools and could take Boise State under the right conditions but may have less flexibility than the Hawaii Bowl, which is owned by ESPN Regional Television. ERT owns many bowl games and would have the ability to move teams around to make sure all are relatively happy.
Notre Dame and Boise State are 8-4 — disappointing seasons for both. But a trip to Hawaii and the marquee bowl matchup of the early bowl slate would give each a chance to end with good vibes. And imagine the TV rating that game, on Christmas Eve, would generate.
Is it possible? Yes. Likely? Hard to say.
Hawaii Bowl executive director David Matlin would not comment on the possibility — or any other possible matchup, for that matter. In fact, Mountain West bowl directors have been tight-lipped this week. They expect Fresno State and Utah State to land in the Las Vegas and Poinsettia bowls, but the rest is a guessing game.
Boise State also is a candidate to play in the New Mexico Bowl, likely against Washington State. Colorado State could be in play in New Mexico, Armed Forces and Famous Idaho Potato. San Jose State would be a good fit in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. And somebody will get left out — UNLV or San Diego State seem most likely — unless the Mountain West can find a seventh bowl slot.