Barstool Sports will sponsor and broadcast an existing bowl game, Front Office Sports reported Tuesday.
The company, which began as a pamphlet and is now a multimedia lifestyle brand worth nearly half a billion dollars, originally worked with a broker to sponsor a bowl game. Barstool and its broker found the Arizona Bowl, and from there the conversations grew to the point where not only will the company serve as the game's title sponsor, it'll also be the broadcaster. The game will move from CBS Sports Network to Barstool's website and social channels. The deal will begin with this year's game on New Year's Eve.
“We really believe that what we can do is take the best of traditional broadcast and take the best of traditional sponsorship and do both in a brand new way,” Barstool CEO Erika Nardini told the site. “We think we’ll bring new fans. We know we will bring a level of energy, and we’ll cover the game in a way that is completely unique, and uniquely Barstool.”
Not only does the site bring a controversial past, the company is also co-owned by gambling book Penn National Gaming. It's not clear if Barstool's associated has been approved by the NCAA, or if it needs to be. That gambling association also led some administrators to caution athletes away from accepting a sponsorship from the company shortly after Barstool launched its Barstool Athletes program earlier this month.
However, the iron curtain between the NCAA (who remembers the "Don't bet on it" ad campaigns) and gambling has fallen. Colorado's athletics department, for instance, has its own official gambling partner.
This is not, however, the first time Barstool has managed and broadcasted an NCAA event. The company launched and broadcast the Let Them Play Classic after the NCAA canceled the women's golf regional.
What is not new, however, is bowl games moving into abjectly zany sponsorships. At first they were ironically funny: the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, the Cheez-It Bowl, the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
As traditional bowl games move further from ever from college football's championship structure, the industry is pivoting from "somewhat meaningful football games that can be ironically funny" straight to "football content that exists to make you laugh."
This winter, the Mountain West will send its champion to compete against the No. 5 Pac-12 team in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, and now the Mountain West and the Mid-American Conferences will send their teams to Tucson to play in a game sponsored and broadcast by Big Cat, PFT Commenter and the whole gang.