By Ashley Dunkak

DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – In the wake of the Detroit Lions announcing their six-year partnership with the Big Ten Conference to host a bowl game at Ford Field, Lions president Tom Lewand shared with Karsch and Anderson of 97.1 The Ticket about the new deal and the upcoming Lions season.

The as-yet-unnamed bowl game is scheduled to debut Dec. 30, 2014, pending broadcast schedules.

“It’s an opportunity for us to really build something with the Big Ten, not just somebody who’s said they might send a team every now and then if they’ve got enough eligible, but rather one that we’re looking at a very progressive, proactive partnership that could allow us to build a number of different things, not just college playoffs, but there are other opportunities that certainly could develop as a result of this,” Lewand said.

Expressing disappointment that Detroit lost out on hosting the X Games, Lewand said college bowl games would be a chance to bring positive attention to Detroit.

“Detroit is not considered a sort of postcard destination when it comes to winter bowl games, so that challenge for us is what’s on the slate,” Lewand said.

As far as which Big Ten teams will play in the bowl, Lewand said the selection process will be different than past years.

“It’s not necessarily this slot or that slot,” Lewand said. “They’ve looked at this as more of a mosaic approach to making sure that they’re getting matchups with all their bowl partners that are attractive, that are geographically and competitively balanced so that you’ve got a good mix and that there aren’t a lot of repetitive matchups or teams coming to the same locations year in and year out, so I think you’ll see a lot more dynamic selection process.”

On the pro football level, the Lions recently closed another big deal – the contract extension with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Now they need to keep him upright.

Accordingly, the revamped offensive line has been a big topic. While recognizing the significance of losing longtime left tackle Jeff Backus to retirement, Lewand was optimistic about the current group, including the rookies and second-year players. Even though many of them have not yet started games, Lewand said being in the system has them more prepared than might be expected and thinks they can take care of Stafford.

“They get better by getting younger and more athletic,” Lewand said. “We’re coming in with some guys that should be able to step in and should be able to really step in as a unit and provide the kind of protection that we need for Matthew.”


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