Big 12 football: Sugar Bowl shows acquiescing to the SEC
The Big 12 was excited last May upon the announcement of a partnership with the Southeastern Conference. It was one more sign that the Big 12 had stabilized after a period of uncertainty.
But Tuesday was time to pay the price. The Big 12 football champion, or a Big 12 rep if the champ is in the new Football Four playoff, will indeed play the SEC titlist, or rep, every year in a major bowl game. The Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
You’ve heard the term “managing partner?” If you never knew exactly what it meant, now you do. Someone has to call the shots, and that someone is the SEC in this SEC/Big 12 alliance. The Big 12 has agreed to send one of its marquee teams every year into hostile territory. The Big 12 can only pray that LSU doesn’t end up in New Orleans on a regular basis.
I know, the Big 12 and SEC have been playing in the Cotton Bowl for years, and Dallas is a Big 12 bastion. But the current Cotton does not have the status of the future Sugar. The Sugar Bowl is slated for a New Year’s Night kickoff, a prime viewing window, and will be one of the bowls that rotate the national semifinals. The Cotton Bowl, too, is expected to join the six-bowl rotation of semifinals, two year per year. The Cotton could keep its current Big 12/SEC alliance, which would lessen the sting a little of capitulating to the SEC.
But clearly, SEC commissioner Mike Slive was calling the shots in this selection of what had been dubbed the Champions Bowl.
“It’s a good day for us,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “We’ll play our champion against the champion of the SEC, and that’s no small task taking on the best league in the country.” Especially in the SEC backyard.
The leagues expressed no interest in rotating the game. Too complicated, considering both sites figure to be in the semifinal rotation, though at least one Big 12 administrator said a rotation could be worked out. And it seems like the Cotton could be designated as the landing spot for the Big 12 and SEC reps in the seasons in which the Sugar hosts a semifinal. As of now, the plan is for six bowls to rotate the semifinals, so once every three years. Give the Cotton the Big 12/SEC game in years when the Sugar is a semifinal (you could do the same for the Fiesta, replacing the Rose Bowl as a Big Ten/Pac-12 destination). That would mean the Big 12/SEC game would be in New Orleans eight times over the life of the 12-year contract and Arlington four times.
Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said it’s still to be determined what to do with the Big 12/SEC matchup in years when the Sugar is hosting a semifinal. That decision will be made after the six bowls are determined, though there is a strong belief that the Cotton and the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta will join the Sugar, Orange, Rose and Fiesta in the rotation.
Bowlsby also said New Orleans and Arlington, Texas, home of the Cotton Bowl, could be in the mix for the national championship game and that Arlington could host the initial game in January 2015. ”I think more than any other site in college football, it’s likely the stadium in Arlington is going to end up being a regular site for a national championship game.
“This was an enormously difficult decision to make,” Bowlsby said. “Obviously, the SEC has a 75-year-plus relationship with the folks in New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl organization. Rick Baker and his staff at the Cotton Bowl are first class in every way, and obviously the stadium in Arlington is the best in all of sports, so this was a very difficult decision.
I doubt the decision was that difficult. The Big 12 no doubt bartered for Arlington, but the SEC holds the cards. You want to be aligned with the powerhouse league? You play by house rules.
“We share the money equally,” Bowlsby said. “We both have partnerships with ESPN that will be strengthened by this alignment. We will manage the games like a neutral site game, so that despite the fact that it’s in SEC territory, it was either going to end up in Big 12 territory or SEC territory. So we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s an equal and fair environment.”
Bottom line, the partnership remains a good thing for the Big 12. To be aligned with the SEC is primo ground for a league on the verge of disintegration just 14 months ago. Playing in New Orleans is just part of the price tag.
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