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Goodbye, Humanitarian Bowl; Hello, Potato Bowl

Wed., Aug. 3, 2011, 8:22 p.m.

BOISE — With a new corporate sponsor and name, Idaho’s only college football bowl game bid goodbye Wednesday to humanitarians and said hello to spuds.

The Humanitarian Bowl will become The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl after the Idaho Potato Commission signed a six-year naming rights deal to underwrite the game running through 2016.

Commission president and chief executive officer Frank Muir said he knew the tuber jokes were coming even before he inked the deal to name the game played on the blue turf of Boise State University stadium after his state’s signature crop.

For example, there might be commen-taters instead of announcers.

Or maybe there could be a partnership with the Idaho Cattle Association for the Meat and Potatoes Bowl.

On Tuesday, somebody even sent out a Twitter message suggesting the game’s organizers bring former University of Iowa coach Hayden Fry out of retirement to play against Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

“You know what I say: Bring it on,” Muir said. “We love it. The more potato jokes, the better. You have to have a tough skin to be in the potato business.”

Idaho, whose license plates already brag about the state’s “Famous Potatoes,” remains the largest U.S. producer of potatoes, a position it has held since 1957. Potato farmers generated about $690 million in revenue in 2010.

Financial terms of the sponsorship haven’t been released, but Muir said his commission — a state government agency that promotes potatoes across the United States and world — would pay for it out of its existing $12 million to $14 million annual budget. It gets the money from a 12.5-cent tax levied on every 100 pounds of Idaho potatoes.

Muir says the decision follows the tradition of other bowl games that were once named after commodities such as the Orange Bowl in Florida or the Cotton Bowl in Texas.

Kelly’s Ducks from the Pac-12 conference won’t play in the Idaho game, at least not until 2013, because the game has a contract to feature teams from the Western Athletic Conference and the Mid-American Conference until then.

This year, the game is scheduled for a wintry Dec. 17.

Since 2007, the Boise bowl game had corporate sponsors from the transportation world — Roady’s Truck Stops and Udrove, which makes software for truckers to manage their in-cab paperwork.

But for most of its 15-year existence, the game has been known as the Humanitarian Bowl, a nod to the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame that’s located on the campus of Boise State — even though there’s no official affiliation.

Kevin McDonald, the executive director of the game, said it became clear early on that to butter up the Idaho Potato Commission, a name change was needed.

“They wanted some form of the potato bowl,” McDonald said. “If we were going to strike a deal, the length of the term had to be right, and (it was necessary) for us to change our name.”

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