The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has only been played since 2002, but already the annual bowl game is quickly rising in stature, a move boosted by the new agreement that will pit a Pac-12 Conference team against a Big Ten Conference opponent each year.
The start of the new contract, which runs from 2014 to 2019, will coincide with the game's move from AT&T Park, which seats 40,800, to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, the future home of the 49ers, which will seat 68,500.
The game had previously featured teams from a variety of conferences, including the Pac-12, ACC and Mountain West Conference. The new deal will provide year-to-year consistency for the first time in the game's history. A Pac-12 team has appeared in the game five times previously, and the Big Ten once.
The powers behind the decision said this is a move that they expect to help raise the profile of the Bay Area's only bowl game as the face of college football's postseason shifts with the introduction of a tournament and several conference realignments.
"Every postseason game, all of us have had to evaluate our position and determine the best plan for the future," said Gary Cavalli, executive director of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. "Our objective quite simply was to elevate the game. The first step was moving to the new state-of-the-art venue in Santa Clara, and the second step was creating a more compelling matchup."
The agreement also moves the game's spot Pac-12 selection from sixth to fourth, a move Cavalli said would be just as important as the other moves.
"Moving up was critical to us," he said. "We had years when we were sweating every night wondering if we were going to get a team. ... It's definitely something where we wanted to improve our position and be able to know that ever year were going to get a team with eight or nine wins and present a quality matchup here in the Bay Area. This is a pretty tough market and I think around the country, there aren't very many bowls that are competing with as many professional teams and as many successful professional teams as we are."
The final Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl before the new agreement kicks in and the game moves to Santa Clara will be Dec. 27, and will feature the Pac-12's No. 6 selection against BYU, if BYU is bowl-eligible.