Hopefully the SEC gets the Sun Bowl, because I've always felt that game would be a great SEC/PAC 12 match-up when geography is considered.
This offseason when people have talked about college football’s postseason, the focus has been on creating some form of playoff system. (We’re still guessing a seeded Plus-One system involving existing bowls for the semifinals and a championship game awarded to the highest bidder will be the eventual answer.) But SEC commissioner Mike Slive is also thinking about the future of college football’s bowl structure.
This season the SEC will expand from 12 to 14 teams. The schedule for 2012 will include just eight conference games which means a lot of league members will reach the current six-win bowl eligibility line. With no new bowls added to the league’s line-up this season, that means a number of bowl-eligible SEC teams might be left home this holiday season. (Last year, the SEC had nine teams qualify for 10 bowl slots, but two of those slots came in the BCS Championship Game which left an opening in the BBVA Compass Bowl.)
Moving forward, Slive knows there will be interest in his league when existing bowl contracts expire following the 2013 season… and at that point, it could be time for the league to tie-in with a Texas-based bowl:
“I don’t really doubt there are some bowls that would be interested in us for a couple years. The question for us is whether they have the freedom to deal with us…
I think we have to take a look (at moving into Texas). I think we will have some opportunities. But at the same time, we have a really good bowl lineup now.”
There are a number of issues at play here and they’re all coming to a head at the same time. There’s a strong push to create some form of four-team playoff. The idea of playing games at campus locations is dying because some venues don’t have the size, luxury suites, or staffing to host mega-events. That means at least two bowl are likely to be involved in a semifinal rotation. If that indeed comes to pass, how will that rotation work and will traditional tie-ins be maintained? For example, will the Sugar Bowl still be the destination for the top SEC team not reaching the BCS title game.
On another level, it will be open season to cut new bowl deals after 2013. Who will the SEC choose as its partners? Will it add bowls to its mix?
Finally, there’s also been talk this offseason of raising the bowl eligibility standard from six wins to seven. If that happens, there will be fewer teams bowl eligible each year and — obviously — fewer bowls to host them.
In other words, while the whole world waits to see if white smoke or black smoke rises from the chimney of the next FBS commissioners’ conference on a playoff, the bowl picture is just as cloudy and muddled as the playoff talk.
That said, there should be no fear amongst SEC fans. Slive’s league is the darling of the television world thanks to its past success, the reputation that goes with that, and a pair of national television packages that grow the league’s drawing power a bit more year after year.
Along with the Big Ten and Pac-12 — both feature major television markets throughout their regions — the SEC should be positioned quite nicely when it comes to locking in future bowl partners after 2013.