With the current BCS contract set to expire at the end of the 2013 season, the landscape of college football is set to change in the coming months. In the last few weeks, the SEC and Big 12 announced that they will be creating their own bowl game, in which each conference’s champion will play, beginning in 2014. While it is unclear what this new bowl game means to the Fiesta Bowl (in which the Big 12 champion currently plays) and the Sugar Bowl (in which the SEC champion currently plays), it is possible that both of those bowls could continue to exist after 2014. Additionally, the bowl would likely be joining the Rose Bowl (played by the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions) and the Orange Bowl (played by the ACC champion).
Furthermore, it is expected that in coming months, BCS commissioners will vote to approve a four-team playoff system as a modification to the current BCS system. This four-team playoff will pit the number-one and number-four seeds and the number-two and the number-three seeds in two playoff games before contending for the National Championship game.
Given that beginning in 2014, the SEC and Big 12 champions will meet in a bowl game as will the Pac-12 and Big champions, while four teams compete for the opportunity to play in the National Championship game, should the Big East and ACC join forces to create their own bowl game?
There are two real reasons for the ACC and Big East to adopt their own bowl game: 1. To ensure that their teams have a national stage to play a bowl game on and 2. To earn revenue.
In considering whether creating a new bowl game is necessary for the ACC and Big East to ensure that their teams play a bowl game on a national stage, one factor to consider is the likelihood of either team’s conference playing in the four-team playoff. A brief overview of the teams ranked number-one through number-four since the founding of the BCS in 1998 provides some guidance as to the likelihood of ACC or Big East teams competing in the four-team playoff set to begin in 2014.
|1998-99||Tennessee||FSU||Kansas State||Ohio State|
|2005-06||USC||Texas||Penn State||Ohio State|
|2007-08||Ohio State||LSU||VA Tech||Oklahoma|
The only current Big East member to have been ranked in the top-four in the college football regular season standings since the founding of the BCS is Cincinnati. Granted, Miami and Virginia Tech were both ranked in the top-four several times during their Big East tenure, however, those teams both play in the ACC now. Thus, when looking at the entirety of teams ranked in the top-four during the BCS’ history, it would appear that the Big East needs a partnership with the ACC, much more than the ACC needs a partnership with the Big East.
However, the fact of the matter remains, that in the last three years, Cincinnati was the only school out of either conference to be ranked in the top-four at the end of the college football regular season. Thus, by creating their own bowl game, the conferences would ensure that their respective champions would be on a national stage during a bowl game after 2014.
Thus, the next question to address, is can the ACC and Big East draw a positive amount of revenue from a bowl game? This question, unfortunately, is not as easy to answer. The ACC and Big East in recent years have been known more so for the talented basketball teams they field than their football prowess. That is not to say, that each team does not have football teams which fans would travel to watch. However, could the conferences find enough fans to travel to a bowl game to ensure its profitability?
Perhaps UConn’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ is an indicator as to if, and how far, fans are willing to travel for bowl games in which their teams appear. UConn was required to sell 17,500 tickets for the event. Six days before the bowl game, it had only sold 4,600. Reports indicated that the school would incur the cost of the unsold tickets. Would Big East fans be more inclined to travel to bowls closer to home? If so, could such an endeavor be a revenue generator for the Big East and ACC?
While the ACC and Big East could benefit from joining forces to create a new bowl game, they should only do so if it is held at a location in close proximity to the bulk of each conference’s largest fan base. Additionally, the conferences should only enter into a bowl agreement after surveys are completed determining each conference’s fan base’s commitment to paying for and attending the bowl game. If the interest is not strong and definite, then each conference would be better off attempting to compete for one of four-team playoff seeds.