The Big Ten could be close to putting together the final pieces of their new postseason bowl line-up. In a report by ESPN.com, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the conference could be “weeks, not months,” away form finalizing the new bowl lineup that would begin in 2014.
“I think what you’ll see is a truly national slate of bowls,” Delany said to ESPN.com. “I think you’ll see us probably stronger on the West Coast than we’ve been. You’ll see us as strong in Florida as we’ve been, but probably not as much on New Year’s [Day]. I think you’ll see us in Texas, and you’ll see us with some games in our region, some games on the East Coast. I think it’s going to be a great slate. We’ve made a lot of progress.”
College football will begin a new championship format in the 2014 season by introducing the College Football Playoff. The new postseason format will seed the top four teams for a mini playoff to determine college football’s national champion. This model will replace the current Bowl Championship Series model. The 2014 season also marks the start of new bowl arrangements for many conferences and bow games. The Big Ten has been one of the conferences making a number of changes to their annual postseason line-up.
The Big Ten will continue their relationship with the Rose Bowl of course, and will have part of a tie-in with the Orange Bowl. Recently the Big Ten announced plans to form a tie-in with the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium and the conference is also in discussions with the NFL’s Detroit Lions to establish a new postseason bowl in Detroit, which would replace the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.
The common belief is the Big Ten will announce a new deal with a California-based bowl game, with the Holiday Bowl in San Diego thought to be a leading contender. The Holiday Bowl already has a partnership with the Pac 12 and Big 12, but a tie-in with the Big 12 could potentially be split with the Big Ten, if not given up entirely.
As noted by ESPN.com’s report, Delany also wants the conference to have more influence on the selection of bowl participants. Specifically, Delany wants the Big Ten to be able to work with the bowl games to ensure the same teams are not going to the same destinations routinely. The idea is to help the conference find a way to spread the bowl games, and destinations around. This would help programs that struggle to advance to more lucrative bowl games in Florida a more likely opportunity to play in one of those bowl games. This may be a bit of a tougher battle, because bowl games will ultimately want to have the best teams available more often than not. Sometimes the Big Ten spreading around their bowl-eligible teams might make for a less attractive match-up if the bowls cater to the Big Ten’s assistance.
This seems to be a slippery slope for the bowl games. For instance, if Michigan happens to be the best team available three straight years for the Gator Bowl, the game may want to welcome the Wolverines to their game in hopes of drawing a larger traveling fan base and perhaps more name recognition in the TV line-up. But what if Delany and the Big Ten pressure the Gator Bowl to take a Purdue team that has a slightly lower win total and has not played in the game for a while? Could this lead to tension between the Big Ten and a bowl game? If so, would the Big Ten promise to send one of the more marquee names in the conference the following season? In a sport with powers possessed by men in business suits, this seems all too realistic and likely to happen. Does that mean it is good for the game?
Delany seems to suggest the bowls have been cooperative in working out a new plan. With bowl game attendance trending downward in many games, perhaps any help from one of the most powerful men in collegiate athletics could be a good thing. We may just have to wait and see how this all plays out.
At least, we could be a few weeks from knowing some more details.
Kevin is host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow McGuire on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.