Last week’s announcement that the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 have entered into an agreement to have their champions meet in a bowl game starting after the 2014 season is another example of the forward thinking of SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
“A new January bowl tradition is born,” said Slive in a press release. “This new game will provide a great match-up between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting post-season atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience.”
Slive is preparing for the upcoming upheaval in college football when the current BCS is blown up and a college playoff finally comes to reality.
While the rest of college football is sitting on its hands waiting to see what format the new four-team playoff will take, Slive is thinking that no matter what form it may take it will in some way reestablish a bowl system that may have a new look also.
Remember the old days when the SEC champion always went to the Sugar Bowl and the Big 8/Big 12 champion was in the Orange Bowl? That system had its flaws but it also had some outstanding points. Who didn’t enjoy a January trip to New Orleans or Miami? About the only people that grew tired of it were fans of the teams that dominated those appearances. A lot of Alabama fans grew weary of New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, when the Crimson Tide was winning the SEC with regularity in the 1970s. Nebraska or Oklahoma fans grew a little tired of Miami Beach when the Cornhuskers and Sooners were dominating the Big 8/Big 12.
But on the plus side, those trips were something to look forward to during the long regular season. The carrot of New Orleans and Miami was a pretty nice carrot for the teams that were in contention.
But who knows how the new bowl system will look? It could be the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl will prefer new alliances, although the Sugar Bowl would be foolish not to want to renew its marriage with the SEC, unquestionably the premiere college football conference in the nation. Given its choice, the Sugar Bowl would probably sign a lifetime agreement with the SEC today but that might not be the best thing for the conference.
Enter Slive, the man who holds the whip hand when it comes to college football. He decided he didn’t want to wait and see what unfolded for his conference. Just like in 1992 when the SEC gave us the first conference championship game, which has since become standard all across college football, Slive and Big 12 acting commissioner Chuck Neinas got together and hatched a plan that will rival the Pac 12-Big Ten hold on the Rose Bowl. Actually, this agreement will likely eclipse the Rose Bowl as far as national interest.
“Our goal is to provide the fans across the country with a New Year’s Day prime-time tradition,” said Neinas. “This is a landmark agreement between two of the most successful football conferences during the BCS era to stage a post-season event. The creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football.”
The key is the phrase “Two of the most successful conferences in the BCS era.”
During the 14-year history of the Bowl Championship Series, the Big 12 and SEC have combined for 16 appearances in the BCS National Championship Game. The Big 12 ranks second behind the SEC’s nine appearances, with seven trips to the national championship game.
“I am very excited by the prospects for a game between our champion and the champion of the Southeastern Conference,” said in-coming Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
It hasn’t been determined where the game will take place and whether it will be in an existing bowl like the Sugar or in a completely new venue, such as a game played in Arlington in the palatial home of the Dallas Cowboys. That would actually be the perfect place for the game since Texas is a state that is home to teams from both conferences while Louisiana is strictly an SEC state.
While there are still questions to be answered before the first game is played, the one thing that you can count on is that it will be a financial windfall for the two conferences. Slive doesn’t do anything that isn’t in the best interest of the Southeastern Conference and that means more money.
This time, it’s nice that Slive and the SEC are going to share the wealth with the Big 12.