Detroit — Lions president Tom Lewand retreated to his upstairs office when a worker wearing a blue shirt walked up to a large banner that promoted the Dec. 26 Quick Lanes Bowl at Ford Field.
“Quick Lanes,” he said. “What is that?”
The hope is no one will be asking that question if the new bowl between teams from the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast conferences is a success.
Lewand said he wants the excitement from the bowl to spill into the downtown area, showing the nation the continued growth of Detroit as it progresses from ghost town to destination.
“This has the potential to be to the winter what the Grand Prix is to the summer,” Lewand said. “There will be millions of eyeballs on the City of Detroit in the winter. The large amount of visitors we will get to our community from these large conferences is significant.”
The Quick Lanes Bowl ends the 17-year run of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which began in 1997 at the Pontiac Silverdome before moving to Ford Field.
One of the problems for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was the inability of officials to secure teams from the Big Ten as a participant. In the bowl’s 17-year history, two Big Ten teams played in the game — Purdue (twice) and Northwestern. Bowl officials usually had the seventh choice of teams, and the Big Ten often failed to qualify seven teams for bowls.
Lewand said he does not expect the same problems with the Quick Lanes Bowl because of expansion within the two conferences. The Big Ten has 14 teams and the ACC 15, and teams only need to win six games against FBS opponents to qualify for bowls.
If the Big Ten-ACC matchup — and expanded conferences — had been in place before this season, there might have been some interesting games in Detroit.
Michigan could have played Syracuse in 2013, for example. Before that, it could have been Michigan State-Miami in 2012 and Wisconsin-North Carolina in 2008.
Still, the Big Ten has contractual obligations with the Rose, Capital One, Outback and Holiday bowls, among others, putting those bowls ahead of the Quick Lanes in the selection process.
“It is not a slotted process,” said Lewand. “It really is a look on an annual basis how many bowl eligible teams there are and what makes sense for the conference.”
Not including the national title game, there will be 38 bowls this season, which means 76 teams will be eligible.
Some analysts believe there are too many bowls. Lewand isn’t one.
“I would respectfully disagree about the bowl fatigue,” Lewand said. “I think there is a renewed energy and excitement centering around the bowl games.”