As has been widely debated on messageboards, the internet, blogs, and sports radio the last several days, the Humanitarian Bowl has extended an invite to the Ball State Cardinals to play in Boise, Idaho on December 30th. Their potential opponent would be #9 and also undefeated Boise State. Oh, and the game is in Boise State's home stadium.
According to several sources, the offer has included an increased payout to the Cardinals, an ease on ticket sales and financial limitations, as well as the opportunity to be the home team (which means Boise doesn't wear their blue jerseys on their blue turf). There has also been mention of a return trip next season to Scheumann Stadium for the Boise State Broncos. All of this is of course wildly speculative and basically internet hearsay since the deal has not been publicized as to what exactly the Cardinals will receive. The alternative is the Motor City Bowl in Detroit, MI.
The goods for the Cardinals are numerous if they agree to the game. They can utilize an "Anywhere, anytime" mentality that has worked for teams like Fresno State and Boise State in recruiting. They can play a team ranked ahead of them in the BCS and receive some national attention and press with a quality win, something the Cardinals' resume is lacking this year. The game also provides exposure to a western audience, something the Cardinals may benefit from in recruiting. Additionally, the game would be a premier national game, televised by ESPN, and unofficially dubbed the non-BCS national title.
The bads are just as numerous, though. Financially, the game would be a disaster as the majority of the ticket allotment for the Cardinals would most likely go unsold. Obviously an assumption on my part, but I sincerely doubt the ability or want of the majority of their fans or students to travel to Boise, Idaho for an outdoor bowl game no matter who the opponent is. Additionally, this is a quality opponent that we would be hard pressed to defeat on a neutral site. Playing at Boise for a Bowl Game is insane. The casual football fan may still view the game as another win over a mid-major program (who themselves have no marquee wins this season save for an Oregon team on QB#3). Additionally, it perpetuates the BCS cycle of letting the midmajors beat up on each other and not gain wins over BCS schools.
In my mind, both schools of thought on the subject are entirely correct, and to be truthful, I'm not sure how much credence I give to whether or not Ball State and their administration is seriously considering this offer. At face value, it's an interesting predicament to be in, at least. What spoils my stomach about the whole affair is that the Humanitarian Bowl is putting extreme pressure on Ball State to either accept or reject the offer by Friday, before they play the MAC Championship Game. We're talking about two schools battling for an undefeated season and you're trying to put the hard sell and the "This is our final offer" tactic to use before we've even clinched the MAC? Shady.
Ultimately, it comes down to this in my mind. Initially, my opinion was to tell Boise to shove their blue turf and their home game in their Humanitarian Bowl asses. I then began to really think about what this game could mean to the University, not only this season, but also next season with a marquee game at home against Boise State. I'm not expecting Nate Davis to stick around, but if he did, and the Cardinals have another fantastic year, that could be their signature win that gets them to a much bigger payday. But then I realized something else. That no matter how much Cardinal and Bronco fans want to think they matter, or that they're relevant, or that they are important to the landscape of college football and those who run it, they aren't. When you really get down to it, this is just another game with two midmajors and that's exactly what the casual observer will realize. A win over a "name" program like Notre Dame or Minnesota will go further towards the Cardinals ultimate end game of national credibility, and provides the best opportunity for competitive recruiting, fan involvement, and financial success.
Like it or not for Ball State, the Boise State game is push/lose at best, while the Motor City Bowl is a win-win for all involved. Would I like to see us go to a Top 10 team's home turf and beat their ass? Absolutely. Do I think this is the right circumstances for that to happen? I do not. The Humanitarian Bowl and Boise State to a lesser extent is selling us something we don't need and they're doing it in a shady, underhanded, pushy way. If Boise State and Ball State want to play next season on a neutral field, then great. But for now... in this moment... sign me up for Detroit.