By Stephen Hawkins
Big 12 athletic directors worked Tuesday to determine the league’s preferred bowl lineup with the anticipation that the Cotton Bowl will become part of college football’s new playoff system.
The discussion about bowl alignment took up a bulk of the agenda as the athletic directors wrapped up a two-day meeting with Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other league officials that also involved football scheduling.
Most of the first day was spent discussing the makeup of the 10-team league and “what-if” scenarios about staying at that number or eventually expanding.
“We feel very good about our current lot in life. We like our revenue distribution, we like our competition, we like our composition. We feel very good about where we are,” Bowlsby said. “Beyond that, we’d be unwise to be oblivious to all that is going on around us. We need to be constantly vigilant. I think in coming out of these meetings we’re prepared very well for that vigilance.”
According to Forbes, the Big 12 will generate about $26.2 million per team this school year through network television deals, bowl games and NCAA tournaments.
That’s the highest per-team average of any conference.
The Big 12 had nine of its 10 teams play in bowl games this past season. No other league had ever sent 90 percent of its teams to a bowl in the same season.
Bowlsby said Tuesday started with a quick recap of what was discussed the first day to make sure there was nothing else the ADs wanted to talk about after thinking about it overnight.
There was none.
“There was nothing more on conference composition today at all,” Bowlsby said.
So they moved on to the primary agenda items of bowls and schedules.
While the first semifinal games in the new playoff system at the end of the 2014 season will be played in the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, the site of the first championship game hasn’t been selected. Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, where the Cotton Bowl is played, seemingly a front-runner for that title game and then to be in the rotation for semifinal games after that.
When all that is finally settled in the next few months, the Big 12 will be ready to work on other bowls.
“Once we know the host bowls, we’re going to be anxious after that to put some deals together and we’ve got to go to that bowl which we think we want to have first after the so-called system, and try and get a deal with them. And then go to the second one after the system,” Bowlsby said. “This was just a way to sort of identify our priorities.”
Under current arrangements through the 2013 season, the Cotton Bowl gets the top pick of Big 12 teams not in the BCS.
Bowlsby said it would be a “fair projection” that the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, which now has the next pick after the Cotton Bowl, or the Meineke Bowl in Houston could move up in the picking order it the Cotton Bowl is in the playoff rotation.
“They’ve both expressed a desire to move up and-or maintain a high level of association and Texas is always going to be our core,” Bowlsby said. “It meets the priorities from a destination and travel standpoint, so yeah, they’re certainly in the mix to replace it.”
Another priority for the Big 12 is getting a tie-in with one of the Florida bowls.
Bowlsby said the league has had conversations with Gator Bowl officials and two other bowls in Florida.
“California, Florida and Texas comprise more recruits than the whole rest of the country combined,” Bowlsby said. “That’s been a shortcoming of our bowl lineup in the past, and we need to fix it if we can.”
The Big 12 already has a bowl agreement with the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
On scheduling of conference games, Bowlsby said the main topic there was putting together future schedules based around a set of principles, such as not having more than two road games in a row, instead of particular matchups.
The commissioner did say the Oklahoma-Texas game would be kept in the first three weeks of October during the State Fair of Texas.
“We’ve got this set of principles, we’ll send you a schedule that meets the principles. And some years you’re going to get a better schedule, and other years you’re going to get a worse schedule,” Bowlsby said. “But it has to be acceptable if it meets the principles, so that’s what we spent our time on.”