No Reason for BYU Fans to Panic about the SEC-Big 12 Bowl Deal
Today the SEC and Big 12 announced an earth-shattering bowl pairing that will shake the very foundations of college football. The two conference behemoths are matching their champions in a New Year’s Day clash starting in the 2014 season that will further consolidate power and create a super-elite tier of leagues.
It’s “Armageddon Day One” as one writer phrased it. The announcement will precipitate Florida State’s defection from the ACC to the greener (as in cash) pastures of the once-troubled Big 12 while Notre Dame finally makes the inevitable mad dash towards conference membership.
Meanwhile, independent BYU will be left to forage for scraps along with the ACC, Big East, and the rest of college football’s “leftovers.”
At least, that’s what many sportswriters would have you believe.
The reality is the game will be significant, but hardly the type of revolutionary catalyst many are predicting.
Actually, SEC commissioner Mike Slive gave an apt description of the new event in a press release. “A new January bowl tradition is born. This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience.”
Even though the conferences are pitching the new game as a clash of conference champions, the reality is it will be a collision of conference runner-ups since the SEC and Big 12 champions are almost guaranteed spots in the new four-team playoff.
Since 1998 (the BCS’ first year), there has never been a single season where both the SEC and Big 12 champions finished outside the top four (former Big 12 members Nebraska and Colorado finished No. 2 and No. 3 in 2001).
In the new pantheon of playoffs AND bowls, the new game will be a more attractive version of the Cotton Bowl, where the Big 12’s No. 2 squad currently faces the SEC’s No. 4/5. Meanwhile, the Capital One Bowl’s stock just plummeted since that was the former home of the SEC’s No. 2.
The Rose Bowl’s “Granddaddy of Them All” status might be in jeopardy, even with a pairing of number twos. It is tough to match 100+ years of tradition and the Big Ten and Pac-12 are competitive leagues, but the new SEC-Big 12 pairing should be a more intriguing matchup.
Whether that game is played in the Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl or an entirely new bowl remains to be seen but you can bet whichever bowls are left out will do everything they can to find a new gravy train.
That could easily precipitate the rise of a proposed eight-bowl BCS with a selection committee creating media-friendly pairings with some regional logic. If you’re a shafted Fiesta or Orange Bowl, would you want to lock yourself in to an ACC vs. Big East pairing (Orange Bowl has traditional ties to the ACC), or take your place at the head of a new BCS bowl pecking order and select teams that are guaranteed to be create a blockbuster hit?
Under such a scenario, it is hard to conceive of Notre Dame, with its clout, tradition, and, most importantly, vast television audience, ever being seriously impacted by an SEC-Big 12 pairing. The Fighting Irish will still be the belle of the ball and likely will feel little pressure to join a conference.
BYU is in good shape as well. The Cougars are often called Notre Dame-light, and for a good reason. When bowl season rolls around, that selection committee is going to know BYU will fill the stands, draw eyeballs to television sets, and make money.
Likewise, Boise State has earned itself a national brand and could fair rather well in a selection committee world.
However, other schools in ACC and Big East territory probably do have reason to be concerned. As for the MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt, MWC, and WAC (if it still exists), well, they’re used to living in the shadows of college football’s bright spotlight.
The real earth-shattering news is the creation of a four-team playoff. While that scenario is shaping up to be a four year deal, it is hardly inconceivable to think an eight-team playoff will take its place. Within 10 years, the entire bowl system could become similar to the basketball NIT tournament. Bowls will be a nice landing spot for teams not good enough to make it to the big dance.
Furthermore, like BYU’s hardcourt brethren, the mantra starting in 2014 will be, “win and you’re in” for BYU’s gridiron hopes.
Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy encourages, “Don’t Panic”. The college football world is not ending.