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Fiesta Bowl Executive Director talks Playoff expansion, number of bowls

Fiesta Bowl excutive director Mike Nealy joins The Doug & Wolf Show for an interview on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 13, 2019. (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

Ever since the College Football Playoff first began in 2014, the topic of expansion has come up constantly.

Debates on whether or not the playoff should stay at four teams or expand to eight or possibly more have become commonplace in the world of college football, and they don’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Fiesta Bowl executive director Mike Nealy commented on the idea of expansion during his appearance on The Doug and Wolf Show on Wednesday as part of Newsmakers Week on 98.7 F.M. Arizona’s Sports Station, where he expressed an overall negative view on the idea.

“I’m not a fan of the growth, and I think maybe from my stance, from a bowl standpoint, that is not going to be a good thing for the bowls,” Nealy said. “If you expand it to a quarterfinals, I would expect those quarterfinals are probably going to have to be played at a home site, so that will eliminate the excitement.

“If you go to a quarterfinal and you lose, are you done, or are you going to go to a bowl game? And if there’s then a bowl game after that, how interested are fans going to be in going to a consolation game? I think it would not be good, so officially from a bowl standpoint, I don’t want to see expansion at all.”

Nealy also offered his thoughts on the number of bowls that currently exist, and why he doesn’t think there are too many like some believe.

“I don’t think [there are too many bowls], just because of what bowls do for the economic impact in the communities that they are in, and then the experience that those student-athletes get is second to none,” Nealy said.

“Many of those students end up going to places that they wouldn’t have a chance to go to, and the experience they get with not just the game, but all the circumstances around the game is something that would be missed out on.”

Finally, Nealy talked about the success of the Fiesta Bowl, and what he thinks they can do to make it better.

“We’re always trying to improve it as much as possible and start thinking of new things to do, but keeping it full is going to be the important part of it,” Nealy said. “Filling those stands gets to be harder and harder. There’s a lot of options and people are consuming their sports in different ways, and we’ve been successful, but it seems to be getting a little bit harder and harder to get those butts in the seats.

“The economic impact of our event, which is a major event that we have year after year, is a couple hundred million dollars every year. We have been successful, and we’re very proud that we’re able to make money and give that money away as non-profit and give away more each year,” Nealy added.

“But down the line, what worries me is whether people will take us for granted. Will people still support us? We’re one of the major events, but we do rely on a lot of local support.”

Doug & Wolf