The Arizona Bowl, the NCAA college football bowl game held annually at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, has had sleepy corporate sponsors since its founding in 2015: the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, the Offerpad Arizona Bowl.
It’ll be an entirely different beast this year, though. Today, while sitting atop the unicorn statue at the University of Arizona, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy announced that not only will his company sponsor this year’s bowl game, it will also be the broadcaster of the event. That means that instead of airing on CBS, the game will stream through Barstool’s website and social media channels.
“This marks our first real foray into acquiring tv sports rights,” Portnoy wrote in an accompanying post announcing the sponsorship. “We plan on giving the Arizona Bowl the full Barstool treatment,” including “an entire week of Barstool Bowl festivities in Tucson leading up to the game” with “Barstool personalities fully immersed in the broadcast.”
Barstool, of course, is a divisive company, maligned by some as a toxic hotbed of misogyny and celebrated by others as a refuge from the humorless and politically correct scolds that populate mainstream media.
Barstool’s previous forays into the world of established sports media have been complicated by its boorish reputation. In 2017, ESPN canceled “Barstool Van Talk,” a partnership with the site, after just one episode. “I erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content,” then-president of ESPN John Skipper said at the time.
Last year, the casino operator Penn National Gaming bought up a 36 percent stake in Barstool in a deal that valued the site at $450 million. The site subsequently launched the Barstool Sportsbook, a betting platform that is now, among other things, the exclusive sportsbook of the Phoenix Raceway.
As in previous years, the 2021 Arizona Bowl is expected to feature a matchup between teams from the Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference. The game is scheduled for December 31.
“If you don’t see the significance of this,” Portnoy declared this morning, astride the U of A unicorn, “then you have a pea brain.”