Arizona college bowl games are about to get even bigger with a big-time college conference connection for the Cheez-It Bowl, beginning with the 2020-21 season, that will feature a matchup against a Big Ten vs. Big 12 team.
The six-year agreement will be in place from the 2020-21 through 2025-26 seasons, with each game being televised live on ESPN.
It will be the only postseason bowl game between the conferences, a highlight for the bowl organizers.
“Every six years the cycle comes around,” executive director of the Fiesta Bowl Mike Nealy said. “We’re excited about this and having the Big Ten matchup against the Big 12 come back to the Valley.”
The two conferences were featured in a previous matchup from 2006-13 and will end the current Cheez-It Bowl matchup of Pac-12 and Big 12 teams, which began in 2015 and will end with next year’s rendition.
“One big reason why bowl games are so special is because we get to enjoy matchups that we don’t see in the college football regular season,” Nealy said.
“Bringing the Big Ten and Big 12 together in their only postseason matchup gives fans across the country access to the Cheez-It Bowl experience with an exciting game of high-quality football, pageantry and fun events.”
The bowl game, formerly known as the Cactus Bowl, will be the only postseason matchup with a pre-ordained Big Ten and Big 12 matchup.
Big 12 teams have a record of 14-3 in the game and its 17 appearances are the most of any conference in the bowl game’s history.
Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said, “We are excited to announce a new partnership with the Cheez-It Bowl through the 2025-26 season. The conference has a notable history with bowl games in the Phoenix area, thanks in large part to the amount of alumni support in the region.
“We are pleased to partner with the Fiesta Bowl organization staff and formally return to the Valley of the Sun for the first time since the 2013 postseason.”
The two conferences have not played each other in a non-College Football Playoff bowl contest since Kansas State defeated Michigan, 31-14, at Sun Devil Stadium in the 2013 edition of the Cheez-It Bowl.
“The Big 12 Conference has been a proud longstanding partner with the Cheez-It Bowl, and we’re excited to continue for another six seasons. We’ve enjoyed memorable student-athlete experiences, and our relationship has been a runaway winner with our member institutions, teams, fans and alumni,” said Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 Conference commissioner.
“Between the exceptional hospitality from Cheez-It Bowl staff and volunteers and the easy access to Arizona for our schools and their fans, the Cheez-It Bowl has been a terrific host.”
Bowl game officials were excited to return the conferences to Arizona and the Cheez-It Bowl.
“We welcome the Big Ten back to the Cheez-It Bowl, as we have many midwesterners who call Arizona home and some of our most successful games came when Big Ten schools were involved,” said Patrick Barkley, chairman of the board for the Cheez-It Bowl.
“Our friends at the Big 12 Conference have been exceptional partners for the last 13 years, and we’re excited to grow our relationship with them for the next six years.”