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El Toro Bowl returning for bigger second season
As officials from both Arizona Western and the Caballeros de Yuma spoke Monday about the El Toro Bowl, one theme became apparent.
The inaugural game of 2011 was great. But 2012 is going to be better.
“The 2011 El Toro Bowl was exactly what we expected it to be,” AWC athletic director Jerry Smith said. “It did exactly what we said it was going to do. It involved the entire community. ... As I'm standing on the middle of the field on December the 3rd, 2011, and I'm looking up at the field, and the stands, and I look at the concession stand and the hospitality tent, it was exactly what we predicted it would be when we started the process some 18 months prior.”
Bowl co-chairman Dave McDowell said he's hoping for even more out of the bowl, which this year has a new title sponsor: Alexander Automotive Group.
“Our goal is to bring this thing back bigger and better,” McDowell said. “Last year was great — but that's done. The 2011 El Toro Bowl is a pleasant memory, but we want you to focus on 2012 and do the things that make the community proud.”
McDowell said the Caballeros and Matador Athletic Association ended up splitting $32,000 on an event that Ken Rosevear, executive director of the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, said brought close to seven figures into the community.
“We know that the numbers in dove season are about $800,000,” Rosevear said. “From the numbers we know from the game, there were almost 6,000 people at the game and 20, 30 percent were from out of town.
“You run the numbers and you can see it's well over a million dollars into the community, and it's a multiday event — it's not just one day. It's a huge economic driver for this community, and as it grows it's only going to get bigger.”
McDowell and El Toro Bowl vice chairman Jonathan Lines said the plans are for a bigger pregame show. With all the bugs worked out from 2011, both said they expect to do more with the high school bands in the area, as well as put on a better skills competition with local football players.
“Last year, everything we did pregame was predicated on when the teams needed the fields,” McDowell said. “Last year we played it pretty conservative in what time we had available for the other elements of the pregame. This year we have a better understanding of that.”
Another thing that caught them off guard was the fact the game ended up being for the national championship. This year, Lines said they are approaching the festivities surrounding the game as if the game itself will again be for a national title.
“We didn't start planning this bowl game with a national championship in mind. So we had to recalibrate as soon as that decision was made. That changed our approach to things. And now we know what the scenario is having to plan for a national championship.”
There is the off chance the Matadors could play for the national title, but not in Yuma. If they are No. 2 or 3, they may have to travel to take on the No. 1 team.
It's a scenario that almost played out last year until the Matadors moved up to No. 1 late in the season. AWC president Glenn Mayle indicated the Matadors would travel for a shot at the national championship should that scenario arise.
“The last thing we want to do is deprive the team of a national championship,” Mayle said. “So early on our conversation was we want to be the national championship (game). ... Some of the other bowls in other conferences, if a team wins it conference it's obligated to play in its bowl. And many of those teams are not playing for a national championship in a year they could have qualified. We want to make sure that doesn't happen to our team.”
Last year the team stayed at home for the national championship, losing to No. 2 East Mississippi 55-47 in the highest-scoring NJCAA title game ever. AWC coach Tom Minnick pointed out that 17 of his players for 2012 already have offers from four-year colleges. Last year, 22 players moved on to four-year schools.
Minnick also said that three teams that could potentially win a national championship at the NCAA Division I level have former Matadors on the roster: USC (Isaiah Wiley), Oklahoma (Damien Williams) and Alabama (Jesse Williams, who won a title with the Crimson Tide last year).
“That says something about our program. That says something about our coaches. I'm very proud of that because it helps us out recruiting and everything like that, but it's not just the football. From the administration to everyone else, it's all a team.”
One aspect to the 2011 bowl that will be dropped is the tie-in with the Arizona Western Hall of Fame. Smith said it made sense last year to have the induction during bowl week since it was the 1972 football national championship team that was the main inductee. Since future inductees will come from other sports, it made sense to separate it from the bowl, he said.