Dubai is an international hub of the oil trade, known for the Burj Khalifa and various other displays of excess (indoor ski slopes, anyone?). It’s a city famous as a playground for the rich, and of human rights violations for the downtrodden. So of course, it’s the perfect home for a college football bowl.
Per ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy, Dubai is one of 10 proposed locations for new bowl games that will host the Bowl Subdivision’s other five — the conferences without immediate access to the College Football Playoff and its affiliated bowls.
Via McMurphy’s report:
“The smaller ‘Group of Five’ conferences are exploring adding bowl games because they are being locked out by the big boys,” a source said. “They’re looking to create bowl games so their teams will have bowls for their bowl-eligible teams.”
Makes sense. The less prominent leagues have often teamed up to create postseason opportunities. The confounding part is how Dubai ended up on a list alongside Los Angeles, Boca Raton, Montgomery, Ala., Little Rock, Miami and Orlando. Was someone from the Sun Belt Conference offices watching Mission Impossible 4 this week?
Dubai hosts various athletic events, including a golf tournament that Tiger Woods participates in annually. Neighboring Qatar was recently chosen to host the World Cup in 2022.
Of course, FIFA’s selection of Qatar raised eyebrows throughout the soccer community. In addition to harsh summer conditions — a problem a proposed Dubai Bowl would not face — accusations of human rights violations in Qatar draw protest. Dubai is plagued by its own human rights negligence.
College football would not send the right message hosting a bowl in Dubai, though expanding the game’s global reach is not such an outlandish concept.
Other international destinations suggested include Toronto, Dublin and the Bahamas. While not the most logic offerings, these three at least have some recent college sports affiliation.
From 2007 through 2010, Toronto was home to the International Bowl, which featured members of the Big East and MAC. Both are part of this five-conference sub-section, albeit the Big East now as the American.
Dublin hosted a well-received tilt between Navy and Notre Dame last September, though the allure was more as a once-in-a-lifetime destination for Irish fans.
The Bahamas host The Battle For Atlantis, a Thanksgiving weekend basketball tournament that has quickly become one of the most prominent of the early season slate. Nassau makes the most sense of the proposed international locales — it’s a short flight from Florida, and an enticing destination for fans following the team.
The problem is that Thomas Robinson Stadium, home to the nation’s soccer club, seats just 15,000. A high school stadium in Texas or Alabama could accommodate larger numbers.
Expenses incurred with traveling internationally might raise questions about amateurism, but the attempted global branding of college football is not a new concept. Tokyo hosted a football game every season from 1977 to 1993, long before discussions of player revenue sharing were prevalent.
Universities in Japan play football — Kwansei Gakuin is the Alabama of the Japanese gridiron with three Koshien Bowl titles since 2007 — though the sport didn’t spread over there nearly as successfully as baseball.
The global growth of college football is going to be an incremental process. The addition of Canadian university Simon Fraser to the Div. II ranks is a step in that direction. However, Dubai is unlikely to ever be a place the sport thrives.
And since the SEC is not involved in talks to bring a game to the United Arab Emirates, the hope of Paul Finebaum being left during a trip there is off the table.