In the ever-changing world of college conference realignment, the calm never seems to last very long. Blink, and the paradigm shifts. What appears to be a condemned disaster area one moment can make a miraculous turnaround in a matter of months.
This is the biggest, craziest high-stakes game of musical chairs the college sports world has ever seen. For proof of that, who could have imagined 12 months ago that the creation of a Southeastern Conference-Big 12 bowl game to rival the prestigious Rose Bowl could signal that a legitimate football playoff is on the way?
Yes, with the news on Friday that the SEC and Big 12 had consolidated forces to create their own New Year’s Day bowl game, we’re all trying to fully understand the obvious and not so obvious consequences of this latest power conference union.
That’s how crazy things are these days that a conference that was a few months ago on the verge of oblivion (Big 12) could miraculously strengthen its position enough to not only survive its near-demise but emerge as one of the four clear-cut winners in college football’s arms race. It’s crazy enough that after years of resistance to anything that even resembled a legitimate major-college playoff, the Bowl Championship Series now is leading the charge toward a football Final Four.
The payout from this new bowl could reach $70 million, twice the current payout for BCS bowl games.
It’s all rather fascinating stuff and impossible to determine what’s the biggest news to glean from the Big 12-SEC bowl alliance. There are plenty of bullet points worth noting:
This game, which is scheduled to begin at the end of the 2014 season, could mean a potential blow to the guts of college football’s current bowl system.
It means that we’re clearly on the verge of blowing up the bogus BCS “national championship” and replacing it with a true championship playoff.
It also signals that major-college football is on the verge of another seismic realignment shift that will cause the creation of a very clear separation of power as teams scramble to make sure they are in one of the Big Four conferences (SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12).
“This is a landmark agreement between two of the most successful football conferences during the BCS era,” acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said. “The creation of this game ... will have tremendous resonance in college football.”
And just in case you were wondering if we’re jumping way too ahead of the parade, well then what do you make of what SEC commissioner Mike Slive had to say on Friday when the bowl was announced?
“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.”
Did you notice that he didn’t say ”if?” Slive was speaking as an informed power broker who just told you that the football Final Four is already a done deal.
The assumption is that the university presidents, conference commissioners and directors of athletics are still haggling over a lot of the details of the proposed playoff. But from what Slive is saying, they’re a lot further down the road to that Final Four than we all thought. It’s not a matter of “if” anymore. It’s only “when.”
Slive’s comments make you feel as if the Big 12 and SEC are making plans to ensure that their new bowl game will be positioned to be one of the Final Four semifinals. That’s the sort of game that generates incredible TV ratings. That’s the sort of game that will generate incredible TV rights fees. That’s the sort of game that will cause smart local governments to bid on the game with open arms (and checkbooks) so that they will be one of the showcase municipalities who will have their hotels and restaurants brimming with out-of-town customers who want to be witness to a genuine major-college playoff.
How would you like to be a progressive and aggressive municipality like Dallas, Houston, New Orleans or Atlanta that has a first-rate domed football stadium and all the proper tax incentives in place that will allow them to bid on the new SEC-Big 12 bowl game and reap the financial windfall from hosting such an event?