It’s not a punch in the gut that UTEP vs. Utah State drew an all-time low TV rating for the nine-year-old Gildan New Mexico Bowl. No dis here. And it goes back a long way when it was first explained why this is logical.

Way back three networks (now Fox yet) had NCAA deals to televise regional games, not just national games pitting big vs. big (the Alabamas, Ohio States …) On a long-ago date then-Missiouri Valley Conference teams New Mexico State played at Tulsa. And it was explained why the networks didn’t (couldn’t) put more mid-sized schools on TV.
The explanation: If a network put New Mexico vs. Wyoming on a nationally televised game it would be difficult to sell advertising space. Advertisers want a lot of people to see their ads. And how many people would be watching New Mexico vs. Wyoming (or in the Gildan Bowl matching UTEP vs. Utah State)?
Back then the state of New Mexico was barely at 1 million people, with not a whole lot of people within 100 miles in any direction. It was stated back then that the entire state of Wyoming had only half that many people – El Paso had more people than that entire state.
So that’s why only 1.9 million people watched UTEP vs. Utah State on the weekend before Christmas. El Paso has no surrounding population. Logan, Utah, is way up north in its state. There are more elk being fed hay in the nearby valleys between Logan and Idaho than there are people in Logan.
There are now 39 bowls in the NCAA. The New Mexico Bowl, by the proverbial casting of lots, got Conference USA’s UTEP vs. the Mountain West’s Utah State. Both UTEP and Utah State have area fans. But neither is a regional fan favorite and certainly neither is a national fan favorite. I still say UTEP must try harder to get both its football and basketball games on TV here in El Paso. That would help sell the program to fans here. Be on TV locally. But no one can expect people in other states to get excited to watch UTEP vs. Utah State early in the bowl season – especially when more people in America know what Gildan is than know anything about UTEP or Utah State.