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This study utilized a historical institutionalism frame to examine three questions. First, what environmental conditions must be present to prompt a city or region to support the creation of a college football bowl game when the failure rate (50%) of bowl games is so high? Second, how does a bowl game survive in an uncertain institutional field? Third, how does a bowl game improve its standing in a competitive institutional field? Focusing on the collective history of the Fiesta Bowl (i.e., 1968 to 2015) as a theoretical sample, this work utilizes Barringer and Harrison’s interorganizational relationship (IR) typology (i.e., joint ventures, networks, consortia, alliances, trade associations, and interlocking directorates) and Oliver’s IR environmental determinants (i.e., necessity, asymmetry, reciprocity, efficiency, stability, and legitimacy) to explain the Fiesta Bowl’s ascension to a top-tier event. Specifically, we found conference affiliations, corporate sponsors, and television broadcast agreements were major areas involving IR. These relationships show IR helped improve the market position and value creation of the Fiesta Bowl in a competitive institutional field. Furthermore, this works uniquely demonstrates that a bowl game’s timeliness to use emerging IR may enhance their institutional position (i.e., tier-status) and ability to help create a new product.
Seifried is with the College of Human Sciences and Education, School of Kinesiology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. Soebbing is with the University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB. Agyemang is with the Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA.