The Conference USA commissioner looks at the sweeping away of AQ and non-AQ designations for conferences and sees a glass half full.
“The old system, with the AQ and non-AQ, was very difficult for us,” said Banowsky. “To be honest, it was just a negative branding for our universities.
“There was no reason for it. It was a branding that labeled some schools worthy and other schools unworthy. That label as unworthy was very damaging.”
But here’s the thing about that. What he’s most excited about – “We now have the possibility of a team from our league being in the national championship conversation.” – never had anything to do with whether his conference was an AQ. That designation only had to do with admission to the BCS games that weren’t hosting the title game.
It’s true that conferences like C-USA won’t be automatically locked out from having more than a certain number of their schools play in the upper tier bowls. But that doesn’t mean they still won’t be facing an uphill struggle to do so. Meet the new perception:
It will take a school in the perceived smaller football conferences playing a difficult nonconference schedule and then sweeping through its schedule without a loss.
“The schools in our league understand that,” said Banowsky. “Schools in our league have done that.
“I think you can look at Tulsa. They played Oklahoma last year.”
Now he’s discussing that in the context of the four-team playoff, but it’s applicable to the other games as well. After all, the selection committee is going to be ranking more than four teams at season’s end.
Bottom line? It’ll be interesting to see if he’s as optimistic about the new regime in, say, 2018 or 2019.
Meanwhile, Joe Bailey, the Big East’s new commissioner, looks at that same glass and can’t help staring at the half empty part. He knows that the Big East losing its AQ status and not having a contractual tie in with a top-tier bowl puts his conference in a tougher spot than before. He just can’t put it that baldly.
“… This relationship with the bowls that other conferences have, they’ve always had them. We’ve always felt that at the end of the day, even though there was AQ status, you wanted to play well and earn your way into a bowl and not necessarily be anointed.
“Based on the meritocracy, we feel pretty good that quite a number of teams based on our historical performance level will mean the conference will be absolutely fine.”
That’s the thought of a man who goes home at night praying that the Boise State love doesn’t end any time soon. Because talk of historical meritocracy doesn’t go very far when it’s about a conference that’s been blown up and reassembled with parts from mid-major conferences scattered across the continent. And that’s why instead of talking specifics, Joe Bailey winds up sounding like Chance the gardener.
“The best way to say this is that most schools and then most conferences have peaks and valleys,” Bailey said. “Sometimes you perform well over a period of time, and other times you go down a little bit.”
Expect to hear more talk like this from Big East folks if the ACC continues in its present mediocrity. It’ll be small consolation for not having an Orange Bowl contract.