Date, name of city’s college bowl game changes 

For the fourth time since it was founded in 2002, San Francisco’s annual college football bowl game at AT&T Park will undergo name changes, but this time it will be more than its title that gets altered.

Known as the Emerald Bowl for the past six years, the annual postseason bash will be rebranded as the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, sponsored by Kraft Foods, bowl officials announced Thursday.

Along with the sponsorship switch — the bowl was previously backed by Diamond Foods — the date of the game has been changed, moving from the week between Christmas and New Year’s to a Jan. 9 slot, which is the day before the national championship game.

After pitting teams from the Atlantic Coast and Pac-10 conferences for the past three seasons, the bowl’s matchup will change during the next several years. The Pac-10 will remain a fixture at the bowl, but in 2011, the game will feature a top team from the Western Athletic Conference. The 2012 version will feature Army, and the following year will bring Navy to town (provided those teams garner enough wins to gain postseason eligibility).

“We will continue to showcase the Pac-10 Conference in this game, as this strategy has worked well for us in the past,” said Gary Cavalli, the bowl’s co-founder and executive director. “The proximity of the WAC schools to San Francisco and the tremendous appeal of the service academies will mean more sellout crowds, big television ratings and exciting football in the greatest city in the world.”

Making its debut in 2002 as the San Francisco Bowl, the game also has been known as the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl and the Emerald Bowl.

Despite its frequent name changes, San Francisco’s postseason matchup has been one of the most successful bowls in the country. AT&T Park has a capacity of 41,000 people for football games and the 2010 game between USC and Boston College was ESPN’s third-most watched bowl game in the channel’s history.

The game has been a boon to San Francisco; since it was founded in 2002, it has generated nearly $100 million for The City.

The game will continue to air on ESPN, with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m.

Kraft Foods’ sponsorship of the game is part of its initiative to fight hunger in the U.S. Since 1990, the organization has donated more than $1 billion in cash and food to national aid organizations.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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