San Diego State will experience the desert heat Saturday when it plays at Arizona, where the temperature on game day in Tucson is supposed to touch 102 degrees.
It would figure to be much cooler there the last week of December, when SDSU could potentially return to town.
Tucson’s Arizona Stadium also is the site for the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl, which is among six bowl tie-ins for the Mountain West.
The seven-year-old game is the only bowl among those affiliations the Aztecs didn’t appear in during their school-record 10-year bowl streak from 2010-2019.
The Arizona Bowl, which matches teams from the Mountain West and Mid-American Conference, is scheduled for Dec. 31.
Maybe some of the heat surrounding the Arizona Bowl will have cooled by then, too.
The bowl created some controversy two months ago when it signed a multiyear deal with Barstool Sports to be its presenting sponsor.
Barstool was founded in 2003 by David Portnoy as a Boston print publication with a fantasy sports focus. It soon branched out to other sports- and life-related topics on the way to moving online four years later.
Barstool earned a reputation early on as misogynistic, coarse and racist.
“Sports/smut” is how Portnoy has described it.
It partnered with AOL early on and at one point also had a brief relationship with ESPN.
The company’s valuation now approaches half a billion, thanks in large part to the $163 million stake purchased last year by Penn National Gaming.
Kym Adair, the Arizona Bowl’s executive director, said Barstool Sports has matured in recent years and “we felt like this was a company that was growing and evolving and we felt very comfortable aligning with them.”
Adair tried to make that point with the Pima County (Ariz.) Board of Supervisors, but the group still voted to pull $40,000 in funding it originally had allocated for the bowl game, with supervisor Sharon Bronson telling 12 News: “I feel that the current sponsor does not represent who we are as a region or as a community.”
“This is a company that has gone through an evolution and a birth process,” Adair said Thursday during a phone interview. “Five years ago, the company was purchased. They put in a female CEO at that time, Erika Nardini, who is a very impressive businesswoman.”
Adair noted the company also has several other female executives in its organization.
“The company that was around prior to that,” she said, “it was 12 guys in a garage. Now they are at almost 300 employees and their footprint is much larger.
“I think it’s really talking about apples and oranges.”
Barstool’s controversial past includes incidents such as:
• The Huffington Post reported that in a 2010 blog post, Portnoy wrote, “though I never condone rape, if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans, you kind of deserve to be raped, right?”
• Nevadasportsnet.com reported that in 2016 Portnoy called quarterback Colin Kaepernick “an ISIS guy.”
“That was my original thought,” he said. “Throw a head wrap on this guy, he’s a terrorist.”
Portnoy also has tweeted photos of Kaepernick and Osama Bin Laden and said: “Anybody who disagrees with me saying Kaepernick looks like he’s related to Bin Laden is a moron.”
That hits especially close to the Mountain West since Kaepernick played at Nevada, one of its member schools.
The Mountain West put out the following statement regarding the bowl sponsorship:
“As it relates to the acquisition of title sponsors or broadcast outlets by our Bowl partners, the Conference neither approves nor endorses them. Each bowl game has the autonomy to select its title sponsor with the approval of the NCAA and make the television arrangements it deems most desirable.
“Our expectation is the Arizona Bowl relationship with Barstool Sports will be managed appropriately and conform to the tradition of providing the best possible experience and exposure for our football programs, student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
At the time of the announcement, Portnoy wrote on his website: “We plan on giving the Arizona Bowl the full Barstool treatment. An entire week of Barstool Bowl festivities in Tucson leading up to the game making this one of the unique and anticipated bowls in the country all while maintaining the integrity of the game and raising a ton of money for charity.”
Barstool’s good works in recent years include helping raise more than $40 million for small business hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May, Barstool sponsored a women’s college golf event — with the NCAA’s blessing — called The Let Them Play Classic. The event was pulled together in just a few days after the Baton Rouge Regional had been canceled because of poor course conditions.
“They’ve evolved while still maintaining the authentic content that they like to put out,” Adair said, “but also learning from things that they’ve done in the past and growing from them.”
The Arizona Bowl’s agreement includes using Barstool broadcast platforms, which means potential viewers can find the game on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in addition to the Barstool website.
“With there being fewer and fewer players from a broadcast standpoint in the college football space, we really needed an opportunity to look outside and find new opportunities in broadcasting,” Adair said. “With Barstool it was a perfect marriage.
“Although they’re not a traditional broadcast partner in the sense of ESPN and CBS, their distribution channels actually offer far more accessibility than other broadcasters offer.”