The current bowl system and the number of bowls cannot sustain itself for many more years. A true playoff at the highest seed stadium and maybe one or two sites for semi final and final are the next wave
This week, the presidents of the FBS unveiled a good portion of the plan for the new College Football Playoff that will launch after the 2014 regular season. Those changes — coupled with the end of all existing bowl contracts — provide the SEC with an opportunity to branch out and expand it’s bowl lineup into new areas.
Just don’t expect said branching to be easy on the ol’ noodle.
The SEC has made no secret about its desire to send a team to at least one bowl in Texas. With the Cotton Bowl’s inclusion in the playoff rotation, the SEC has lost the one Texas bowl with which had been partnered. In addition, the Chick-fil-A Bowl — which will once again become the Peach Bowl — is a part of the new playoff rotation as well. For SEC fans, that means this year will be the final year that a league squad will be contracted to spend New Year’s Eve in Atlanta.
There will be other changes to the SEC lineup as well. Gone is the old two-teams-per-season BCS rule that capped the number of squads from once conference. With six bowls now part of college football’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day party, any number of highly-ranked SEC teams could be invited to take part in the two-bowl playoff or in the overall six-bowl plan in a given year. The number of invitees will be determined by the yet-to-be-determined football selection committee and their yet-to-be-determined criteria.
In past seasons, the SEC has had 10 bowl tie-ins (including the BCS’ Sugar Bowl) with the opportunity to land an 11th squad in the BCS Championship Game. When that happened, the last bowl or two in the SEC pecking order — depending on the number of bowl-eligible teams from within the league — would lose their “guaranteed” SEC partner. Moving forward without a cap, an even greater number of lower-end bowl partners could lose out on SEC teams that are picked for the “big bowls.”
Under the new plan, the SEC champion will now be partnered with the Big XII champion in the new and improved Sugar Bowl. That is when the SEC and/or Big XII champion are not in the playoffs and when the Sugar Bowl is not hosting a playing game. So long as the Sugar isn’t a semifinal site, it will always host teams from the SEC and the Big XII, though it might not — and probably won’t be — the two leagues’ champions.
If the SEC champion is not part of the playoff and the Sugar Bowl is in the semifinal rotation — an unlikely scenario — then the SEC champion will be sent to either the Peach, Orange, Fiesta or Cotton bowls. (The Sugar Bowl is partnered with the Rose Bowl throughout the 12-year rotation.) With geography a component of the new system, expect an SEC champion not in the playoffs to be sent to Atlanta, Miami or Arlington when the Sugar Bowl is a semifinal site.
Speaking of the Orange Bowl, the SEC has already locked in a slot in that bowl, too. As is the case with the SEC and Sugar Bowl, the ACC champion is contracted to play in Miami each year… so long as that champ is not in the playoffs and the Orange is not serving as a semifinal site. In those years that the Orange is not part of the playoff, the bowl will be slotted either an SEC team, a Big Ten team, or Notre Dame.
Follow all that? Of course not. It’s ridiculous.
But for the SEC, just know that the new bowl lineup probably won’t look like the old bowl lineup:
Sugar Bowl (New Orleans): SEC vs BCS at-large
Capital One Bowl (Orlando): SEC vs Big Ten
Cotton Bowl (Arlington): SEC vs Big XII
Outback Bowl (Tampa): SEC vs Big Ten
Chick-fil-A Bowl (Atlanta): SEC vs ACC
Gator Bowl (Jacksonville): SEC vs Big Ten
Music City Bowl (Nashville): SEC vs ACC
Liberty Bowl (Memphis): SEC vs C-USA
BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham): SEC vs Big East
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Shreveport): SEC vs ACC
Before you start trying to figure out if the SEC will say goodbye to any of the above locations — aside from the already out-the-window Arlington and Atlanta, of course — keep in mind that it’s been reported that the SEC, Big XII, ACC and Big Ten have already discussed a scheduling rotation that would land schools from those leagues in the Music City (Nashville), Belk (Charlotte), and Alamo (San Antonio) bowls over a period of time (probably 12 years to match the new playoff contract). The goal: Lock in and guarantee as many bowl bids as possible for each league, leaving the smaller conferences to duke it out for lesser bowl invites and chump change.
In all honesty, at MrSEC.com we’re for a system that sends SEC teams to new sites to face new, fresh, different opponents. There are only so many times you can watch the SEC battle the Big Ten or ACC before those games all just run together in a “Didn’t they play last year, too?” mish-mash.
So what exactly is coming next for Mike Slive’s league?
We already know that the Cotton (Arlington) and the Peach (Atlanta) are out as year-in, year-out partners. The SEC only recently tied back in with the AdvoCare V100 (Shreveport) so that game might be right back off the list, too. The SEC’s relationship with the Gator (Jacksonville) has also been short-lived, though we suspect the league likes having a guaranteed third Florida bowl in the mix. The BBVA Compass (Birmingham) is losing its sponsor at year’s end and there were some grumbles from the Ole Miss administration after last year’s game, but it’s hard to imagine the SEC turning its back on a bowl played in the league’s very own home city. That doesn’t sound smart politically.
Just looking at last year’s bowl slate, there only appear to be a few new options that might meet the SEC’s desires: the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth (probably too small), the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile (probably too small), the Heart of Dallas Bowl in the original Cotton Bowl Stadium (a possibility), the Sun Bowl in El Paso (just don’t cross the border to Juarez these days), and the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston (at Reliant Stadium).
If the SEC chose to add yet another Florida bowl or to flip-flop a current partner for a new one, the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg is a slim possibility. And for those wondering about the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl or the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, we don’t believe the SEC will be doubling up in those cities.
Of all the possibilities listed, one clearly makes sense — the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The game had a combined payout of $3.4 million for last year’s Big Ten/Big XII clash and that’s a bigger cash distribution than those offered by the BBVA Compass, the Liberty, the AdvoCare V100 and just about all those other possibilities mentioned above.
But just to make things a bit more messy, how long will the current bowl structure hold up? The SEC and Big XII have already opened the door on a new era by creating their own “Champions Bowl” and then hiring out the Sugar Bowl to basically run it while the leagues keep a much greater share of the cash. What bowl will be the next to yield to a conference in the hopes of simply keeping its lights on? Bowl attendance hasn’t exactly been booming lately, ya know. Perhaps even a smaller mobile like the GoDaddy.com in Mobile would become more attractive if the SEC and another conference took it over, kept most of the profits, and somehow created a bit more buzz for the game.
The points is this: For those of you who’ve been confused by the SEC’s previous bowl lineup — “Now does that bowl get the third-place team or does it just get the third pick from all the SEC teams?” — get ready for a true headache.
As the conferences try to guarantee themselves as much cash possible, they’re locking in more rotations. An SEC team will usually go to the Sugar Bowl, but there is the possibility of a miss at some point over the next 12 years. Every few seasons an SEC team will go the Orange Bowl. The new selection committee can grab other high-ranked SEC teams and send them to the Peach, Cotton, or even Fiesta or Rose depending on seeding and the playoff rotation.
Toss in potential rotations and partnerships between multiple leagues for lesser bowls — like the Music City, Belk, Alamo as discussed above — and most Southeastern Conference fans won’t have a clue about the their favorite team’s bowl possibilities until they get a mailer from that school asking them to buy tickets.
Those who expected the new College Football Playoff to help make the bowl season simpler are in for a big disappointment. Not only will selection committee members, the teams they choose, and the new new playoff itself be causes for consternation… but starting in 2014, the whole college football postseason will get even muddier.
Hey, we asked for it.