Conference to send team to annual game for six years starting in 2014
NEW YORK -- When George Steinbrenner's daughter, Jenny, attended the University of North Carolina in the early 1980s, the Yankees owner brought the team to Chapel Hill, N.C., to play against the Tar Heels in three of her four years at school.
John Swofford was the athletic director at North Carolina during that time. Now, he's the commissioner of the ACC, and he still remembers Steinbrenner's generosity.
"He paid all the expenses, we kept all the revenue. And I thought that was a heck of a deal," Swofford said, laughing. "I've admired him ever since. ... His love for college football was always evident."
Thirty years later, Swofford joined into a partnership with the Yankees. The ACC and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl -- played in Yankee Stadium each December -- announced a six-year affiliation between the conference and the bowl game, beginning in 2014.
The ACC school that plays in the bowl will face off against an opponent from the Big Ten, which agreed to an eight-year partnership on June 3.
"It's a great honor for us, the Yankees and the Pinstripe Bowl to welcome in such a phenomenal partner, a conference with such an enormous history that goes back for generations in the Atlantic Coast Conference," Yankees president Randy Levine said. "As I said when the Big Ten was here, we get a lot of skeptics, gloom-and-doomers, who never think things are going to work out, but it's worked out incredibly."
The bowl, which began in 2010, has seen its success and recognition rise each year. The first three years of the game featured teams from the Big 12 and Big East conferences. Syracuse defeated Kansas State, 36-34, in 2010; Rutgers beat Iowa State, 27-13, in 2011; and Syracuse won it for a second time this past December, routing West Virginia, 38-14.
The attendance for the games has risen for all three games, too, going from 38,274 in 2010 to a record 41,203 last season.
"This bowl game has just rocketed to be one of the best," Levine said. "And this matchup between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten is second to none."
The ACC's decision to partner with the Pinstripe Bowl is part of a continued effort to increase its footprint in the Northeast. The conference has long had teams all over the Eastern Seaboard from Boston to Florida, but recently added Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame, giving it more reason to look for footholds in the New York area.
"This is truly a terrific opportunity to play in this game on an annual basis, in the media capital of the world, in partner with the most storied and iconic franchise and stadium in American sports," Swofford said. "I think it's a partnership that makes sense in every way."
For the Yankees, the partnership represents their continued efforts to make the Pinstripe Bowl one of the top games in college football. Levine and Swofford agreed the bowl is already among one of the best in the nation -- outside of the BCS bowl games -- and has unparalleled potential.
"The Boss loved college football. Except for the Yankees, that was his greatest passion," Levine said. "For him, looking down, to know that the bowl game he founded in the stadium he built would have the Big Ten and the ACC is nirvana."