Given the upheaval in college conference alignments, the Yankees-sponsored New Era Pinstripe Bowl is likely headed for a renovation.
The Yankees have fared well at the box office with Syracuse and Rutgers serving as the Big East representatives in the first two years against schools from the Big 12. Syracuse is making a return visit Dec. 29 when it faces former Big East member West Virginia. But the formula going forward gets murky as Syracuse transitions to the ACC and Rutgers goes to the Big Ten.
"In every business you have to grow and you have to get better and you can't rest on your laurels,'' said Mark Holtzman, executive director of the Pinstripe Bowl and director of program development for the Yankees. "The landscape has changed significantly. The great value of the Big East is that they had so many teams that could travel here in one day and that's important. When you stage a bowl you want at least one of the teams to be in shouting distance. Who was to know that the landscape would change so dramatically? It quaked just a few weeks ago with Rutgers and Louisville. Clearly, to grow the game we have to look at all of our options. That doesn't preclude the partners we have now, but we have to look at our options.''
New Era, which underwrites much of the cost of staging the Pinstripe, is closely watching the conference changes. "Obviously, we have some concerns,'' CEO Chris Koch said, "but we'll see how it plays out . . . Something really dramatic would have to happen for us not to want to continue this. At this point, we're looking to move forward and continue on.''
The Pinstripe's commitment to the Big East and Big 12 ends after next season. Holtzman said that while there is a loyalty factor to those conferences, "At the end of the day you also have to look at what's best for you long term because a lot of teams that geographically made sense, especially in the Big East, are no longer there. Unlike any other bowl -- and I'm talking the BCS games, too -- we can promote the game on a year-round basis. So it's more than just a football game, it's a co-branding experience for the institution.''
Where else would the Yankees look for participants? "George Steinbrenner always shot for the stars,'' Holtzman said of the late Yankees owner, a big advocate of college football. That means the Yankees want ranked teams.
"After four years I think we will have established a brand, established what we can do,'' Yankees president Randy Levine said. "When our contract comes up next time we're going to be seeking to get much higher rated teams from the conferences to play here.''
Holtzman said additional regular- season games would also be added. Automatic huge draw Notre Dame, which played Army at the Stadium in 2010, is being planned. "Nothing is finalized,'' he said. "I believe Notre Dame will be here again in the next few years. I can't say when. I'm very hopeful they will be here.''