Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego is ending after 12 years.
This week it's a football game, not a team, that San Diego has lost.
The San Diego Bowl Game Association on Wednesday announced it is discontinuing the Poinsettia Bowl. The group's other postseason game, the Holiday Bowl, will continue.
Mark Neville, executive director of the San Diego Bowl Game Association, said in a statement: "College football and the bowl game structure has gone through major changes through the years and our board feels the time is right to focus our efforts on one post-season game. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl staged exciting match-ups for more than a decade and we were one of the few cities to host two bowl games."
BYU defeated Wyoming 24-21 last month at Qualcomm Stadium in the 12th, and now final, edition of the Poinsettia Bowl. San Diego State's school-record streak of seven straight bowl berths included three Poinsettia Bowl appearances. The Aztecs defeated Navy in the 2010 game, lost to BYU in 2012 and lost to the Midshipmen in 2014.
Reached after the announcement, Neville said the decision was made Tuesday night when the game's board acted on an executive committee recommendation.
"This was not an easy decision for our group to make," Neville said. "Truth be told, we're all kind of sad about it because we have put in so much effort and so much energy into that game. That said, we also know that this is the right move for our organization and for the community."
Average attendance for the Poinsettia Bowl through the years was 32,264, although the game's four smallest crowds were in the past six years. The only games during that span with more than 30,000 in attendance was when SDSU played in 2012 and 2014.
"We were aware today's announcement from the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl was a possibility," Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. "While we are disappointed by the decision, the Mountain West is thankful for the tremendous relationship we've enjoyed with the bowl game.
"The city of San Diego and the Poinsettia Bowl were outstanding hosts and provided a first-class experience for several MW institutions over 12 seasons. The Poinsettia Bowl is one of six postseason games the Mountain West has been a part of creating during its 18-year history. We are well-versed in the bowl space and are already in the process of vetting future options to ensure postseason opportunities for our student-athletes."
The postseason has become bloated with bowl games in recent years, with 41 bowls contested in the 2016 season. There were 28 bowl games when the Poinsettia debuted in 2005. Filling all the spots has required taking some teams with losing records the past two years, so contraction does not come as a shock. It is somewhat surprising the Poinsettia Bowl, which has been better attended than several other games, is the first to be shuttered.
"As the changes have developed in college football in the bowl industry, it has become increasingly difficult to sell tickets and secure sponsorships," Neville said. "Doing two games in San Diego within the span of a week has become more and more difficult as the years have gone by. It made total sense for us to put all of our energy and efforts (into the Holiday) for securing sponsorships, for selling tickets, for creating the very best bowl experience for our fans and student-athletes and the bands and the cheer squads, everybody."
So the focus shifts to the Holiday Bowl, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2017. Neville also addressed concerns about the future of Qualcomm Stadium, which has hosted the Holiday since its inception.
"For now we plan to continue producing the Holiday Bowl and its one-of-a-kind fan experience in Qualcomm Stadium," he said. "However, Petco Park could one day serve as the ideal home for the Holiday Bowl. It's certainly a tremendous venue with world-class amenities that our fans would enjoy."
Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler told the Union-Tribune earlier this week that he believes Petco Park can hold 40,000-45,000 for football, including temporary seating. He said the Padres already have spoken with Populous, the architectural firm that designed Petco Park, about a possible transformation to make it suitable for football.
The San Diego Tourism Authority says the Poinsettia Bowl will be missed because, like the Holiday Bowl, it helps fill hotel rooms at a time of year when leisure and convention business slows down significantly.
"They do bring new rooms to town at a time when we're struggling to build hotel occupancy," said Joe Terzi, CEO of the Tourism Authority. "The Poinsettia Bowl delivers about half of the rooms that the Holiday Bowl brings. "But with the growth in college bowl games, companies don't necessarily see the games as growing their product. The Holiday Bowl still does well and can be a successful event but trying to produce two bowls in this economic environment is hard."
The San Diego Bowl Game Association will continue efforts to bring in-season football games to San Diego. Already scheduled is a game matching Navy and Notre Dame in October of 2018 at Qualcomm Stadium. It will be Notre Dame's first appearance in San Diego.
"We're not just getting rid of a bowl game," Neville said. "What we're doing is we're changing our business a little bit. This Navy-Notre Dame game is the longest-standing, continuously-run, intersectional game rivalry game in the country. We are certainly going to explore other games like that to bring here to San Diego."
Poinsettia Bowl results
2005: Navy 51, Colorado State 30 (attendance: 36,842)