STILLWATER — Tommy Bain reflects on the growth of the Cotton Bowl Classic over the past five years — most notably, the move from its namesake venue to AT&T Stadium in Arlington — and feels pride that the desired goal has been attained.
After being left out of the Bowl Championship Series, the Cotton Bowl returns to the pinnacle of college football next season when it hosts the first national championship game that stems from a four-team playoff and then becomes one of the rotating sites for the semifinal games.
“I'd say every decision we have made for the last five years has been with this future in sight, with our desire and our vision to get back into the very top,” said Bain, the bowl's chairman who has been involved with the game for more than 20 years. “At the time, we didn't know if it would be the BCS or a playoff or whatever it would be. But whatever that was gonna be, we wanted to be a part of it.”
That means the Jan. 3 Cotton Bowl between Oklahoma State and Missouri will serve as a final dress rehearsal, of sorts, to prepare for what's to come next year.
Security will be heightened. There will be upgraded amenities, such as improved hospitality for participating teams and athletic departments. Other logistics and procedures will mirror what will be required for the championship game next season.
“There's gonna be a few dry runs of things that we do that we might not normally do for a normal Cotton Bowl that kind of gets us ready for the future,” Bain said. “…We think we've upgraded that with the anticipation of looking to the future, and we think we'll be one of the top bowl games in the postseason.
“We think we already are, but we certainly have earned that right now. We really looked all across the board at the way we do it and the way we kind of deliver our event.”
Bain is thrilled his crew gets to test these new and improved elements on what he believes is one of the bowl season's marquee matchups.
In OSU and Missouri, the Cotton Bowl landed two teams that were vying for conference titles on the last day of the regular season. Those squads are led by two coaches in Mike Gundy and Gary Pinkel that Bain calls “some of our favorite people to be around,” and they have engaged fan bases. The fact that the Cowboys and Tigers used to be Big Eight and Big 12 comrades provides pregame intrigue.
That contest will propel the Cotton Bowl into next season, when it crowns college football's national champion.
“It's been a real team effort,” Bain said, “and we're really excited for all of north Texas that we're gonna kind of bring the Cotton Bowl back to a premier game.”