If there was any doubt that the bowls are the biggest losers in the new postseason arrangement, the new ACC-Orange Bowl deal should put that to rest. That’s because the most significant part of it is this:
Along with the announcement that it will be aligned with the Orange Bowl, the ACC also told ESPN that it now controls the broadcast rights to the bowl, meaning that it will be taking bids on who broadcasts it, and will be taking at least 50 percent of those broadcast rights for itself.
It’s evidence of a sea change in who’s calling the shots.
“It’s a de-centralization,” one BCS source said. “Conferences taking control of their bowl games and determining who participates in the games. It’s the conferences really loaning their bowl games to us to have semifinals.”
In other words, the bowls no longer control themselves. And because of that, the new regime is going to be awfully confusing.
So when you hear the term “contract bowl” to describe the Rose, Champions and Orange bowls, it literally means those games have their own contracts with individual conferences. Hence, if they lose one of their contracted champions to the playoff, they can replace that team with any other team from that partner conference, minimum ranking be damned. The BCS is not dictating which conferences get these contracts. There’s nothing stopping one of those bowls from signing the Big East or Mountain West, but realistically it’s not going to happen. Not everybody’s going to like it, but that’s life in a free market.
Where it gets truly confusing, though — and where one might argue things really aren’t that deregulated — is that these bowls will still have a connection to the three other “access” bowls and, obviously, to the playoff itself. If, say, the Rose Bowl is hosting a semifinal one year and the Big Ten champion doesn’t make the playoff, that team still has a protected spot waiting for it in one of the other three bowls. “If you give up your contracted bowl to have a semifinal, then your champion would have a berth in one of the other games,” Hancock said of those conferences. However, if in the same scenario that champion did make the playoff, no bowl would be obligated to take a second Big Ten team, and it might not even be possible, as those de facto at-large spots would be determined by the selection committee’s rankings.
Got that? If you don’t, Dennis Dodd summarizes it neatly.
In essence, the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC are secure enough in their teams’ ability to compete for national championships that their bowls don’t have to part of the playoff on a regular basis. Teams from those four leagues have won national championships in 16 of the last 18 years.
Welcome to settling it on the field, bitches. When the fait is made accompli, it’ll dawn on everybody who’s been slobbering for an end to the BCS that they’ve been used as an excuse for the big conferences to consolidate their hold on the postseason. Or, to put it another way,
I’m already on record as saying the new college football playoff is little more than a tightening of financial screws by the old BCS power structure. I mean, look at the BCS official web site. It’s trumpeting the new playoff. If the BCS is dead, how can it dance on its own grave?
Well played, gentlemen.
The one thing that’ll be fun to watch is what ESPN, owner of seemingly half the minor bowls in existence and broadcaster of many more, will do when the suits inevitably push to expand the playoff. Per everyone’s go-to former sports TV exec Neal Pilson,
“The problem with 16 teams is you’re killing the bowls,” Pilson said. “You can’t run it into late January. If you try it with eight teams, you’ve got to start playing Christmas week. [With too large a playoff] each of those bowl games you kill has two senators and at least one Congressman who is going to fight you.
“I clearly think this is the best idea.”
Hey, you can’t please everybody.
UPDATE: Brian Cook is dead on with this.
In the long term, John Junker’s Fiesta Bowl plunder may be a benefit for college football since it seems like it was a wakeup call to college football conferences. Slapped with a torrent of bad publicity, various commissioners descended to the war room to plan strategy, found that they had all the power, and proceeded using it.
And PlayoffPAC thought it was helping to usher in college football’s brave new world when it went after Junker. Congrats, guys. They’ll probably wind up naming the new national title trophy after him.