Backing the Bowl 

Sponsors, Supporters, Officials Ready to Get Arizona Bowl Relaunched

By Steve Rivera

Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl officials are champing at the bit for the upcoming bowl game. No one more than Kym Adair, the bowl’s executive director.

She dreams of business as usual after two years of disruption.

“We’re so excited and so ready to have a typical year,” said Adair, now entering her fourth year as the bowl’s executive director.  

The last two years were far from that. In 2020, the game went off without fans in the stadium, thanks to the COVID-19 disruption. Last year – at the 11th hour – COVID-19 forced Boise State University to withdraw from its scheduled appearance with Central Michigan University, forcing the bowl’s cancellation.

“It’s been a really challenging few years,” Adair said, “having no fans in the stands in 2020, but at least we played. And then having the real excitement about the 2021 game and all the things we had planned around the game, and then having that be canceled at the last minute was pretty heartbreaking – deflating, really.”

But, all of that is in the rearview mirror. Football fans in Southern Arizona should get to see two of college football’s best when the winners of the Mountain West Conference and Mid-American Conference show up on Dec. 30 at Arizona Stadium. 

“We’re just really grateful for the support of all of our sponsors and supporters who have helped us,” Adair said. “If we can make it through those challenging times and be stronger on the opposite side here, we’ll be ready for another great game.”

All the game’s sponsors have stuck it out, she said, believing that Southern Arizona is prime real estate in the college bowl game market. The Arizona Bowl shows the beautiful landscape and vibrant lifestyle of Tucson and surrounding areas. 

“People know the importance,” Adair said. “A lot of people rolled over their sponsorship, so it would be credited for this year. Others just donated it to us. We’ve been really grateful for all of that support.”

The Arizona Bowl has generated nearly $100 million in economic impact and given more than $4.5 million to local charities over the last eight years, despite the losses of 2020 and 2021, Adair said. 

Through the years the Arizona Bowl has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to community nonprofits.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to distribute the money in the way that we had hoped to,” she said. “We just haven’t had any revenue from the last two games to be able to do that. But we are anticipating that we’ll be able to start that up again after the 2022 game.

“With the continued support of our sponsors and ticket holders, we’ll be able to give a significant chunk of money away next spring,” she added, to the tune of “several hundreds of thousands.”

The usual trappings will return – fingers crossed – with a full week of pregame fun and postgame festivities bookending the big day.

“We’re excited once again,” Adair said. “With Barstool Sports’ presence and influence, it’s going to be an amazing game. We’ve got a lot of fun surprises planned. And yeah, it’s gonna be as great as it’s ever been.”

She and Arizona Bowl officials are preparing for anything, given what happened the last two years.

“I’ve learned to have Plan B and Plan C … to have patience and roll with the punches,” she said. “We have the best community in the country. Honestly, we’ve got the best people helping and supporting us. They have great enthusiasm. Folks have been so disappointed about the challenges we’ve had the last couple of years, but they stuck with us and have given us the motivation to continue to produce the game with great passion. We all want to make sure it goes on for a long, long time.”

So do the conferences involved.

“The Arizona Bowl is an integral part of Mountain West football,” said Commissioner Craig Thompson. “Following the inception of our partnership with the Tucson community to start the game in 2015, the bowl has quickly developed into a popular postseason destination for our football programs. The Arizona Bowl is essential to our goal of providing high-quality postseason opportunities for our student-athletes.”

“We have enjoyed the opportunity to play in the Arizona Bowl,” said MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher. “Tucson is a great destination with impressive athletic and hospitality facilities, in addition to competing with a strong opponent. All make for an exceptional bowl experience for our student-athletes and fans.”

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