Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl. The Big East champion has been tossed around more than the kid picked last in gym class.
Believe it or not, after the champion is selected to the BCS bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl here in Orlando has the first choice of what is left. Yes, the Champs Bowl, now the Russell Athletic Bowl, is the top bowl automatic tie-in for the conference.
The Big East will be fine in the initial years of the new playoff contract. In that deal there will be no automatic qualifiers, just the top four teams selected for the playoff. So the Big East’s only disadvantage will be perception (perhaps reality) of a weaker league. They’ll operate without any benefit of the doubt and probably have to be unbeaten with at least one quality, recognized, out of conference win.
It’s after we begin this new era that I think the Big East’s lack of a meaningful bowl tie-in will hurt them. The ACC just inked a new 12-year deal with the Orange Bowl, and the Big Ten/Pac-12 (Rose), and the SEC/Big12 (Champions, and likely still the Sugar and Fiesta on a lesser level) insure their inclusion in the future discussions of an expanded college football playoff. It, perhaps more importantly, insures that they’ll be getting paid handsomely in the future with those partnerships.
If/when college football expands it’s playoff, the AQ could very well comeback in vogue. It is at that time the Big East will lose it’s footing, as well as the other non-major conferences. An expansion to include conference champions would likely just recognize those that have major bowl tie-ins.
So how does the Big East avoid future problems, and potentially disaster? I don’t see how honestly. There is no major bowl, or even secondary bowl (Cotton, Capital One, Outback, Gator, Chik-Fil-A) that would prefer a Big East champion over it’s strong relationships with the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, ACC, and Pac-12.
No matter how well the new Big East may play or grow, it doesn’t seem possible they’ll become more visible, or more attractive than 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th tier teams from the other major conferences. Based on how the past Big East teams have drawn, I fail to see how the new ones will do better.
Of course, there will always be the risk of further poaching of the conference by the ACC, Big Ten, or Big 12 as well to worry about. I just don’t see a future where the Big East is a fixture in college football. The Big East is becoming what the Mountain West and the WAC were to the past decade in the sport. A conference that can and might produce a very good team, but comes from a conference that is not respected or recognized as one of the best. A conference that must be perfect to be considered, and still questioned when they are, and not worried about when they aren’t. The future winner will be regarded in the same way the Boise State’s, the TCU’s, and Utah’s were the past decade.
Hey, you’re a great story, and a great team, but you couldn’t survive and thrive in our conference.