Archive for January, 2012

In the latest (albeit expected) move in conference realignment, numerous reports state that Navy will announce on Tuesday that it is joining the Big East as a football-only member in 2015.  This is a fairly historic move considering that Navy has had the longest run of uninterrupted independence of any Division I-A football program (123 years starting in 1879 according to the non-blacked out Wikipedia).  It’s also quite a coup for the Big East as Navy arguably has more TV contract value than any non-AQ school outside of BYU.

Of course, 2015 might as well be 2115 in terms of conference realignment timing.  The question is whether the landscape is truly settling or there’s one more large move (such as the Big 12 expanding with 2 more schools) that will cause more aftershocks.  The Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have continued discussions about a merger where the ultimate benefit might be protecting themselves if/when the Big East takes any more of their members.

Indeed, my feeling is that the Big East will look to add another western football-only member to round out its football membership at 12 schools (assuming no other defections for now).  That means that the Mountain West is vulnerable again to another defection.  It’s hard to say who would be most valuable from those that are left in the MWC (or who will be joining the MWC from the WAC starting next season): UNLV, Fresno State, Nevada, Colorado State and… dare I say it… Hawaii all have some attractive points in a creating a Big East western division.

I doubt that the Big East will add any further all-sports members unless it’s to backfill any further defections of current all-sports schools.  (The greatest flight risks, in my semi-educated opinion, are Louisville and Rutgers to the Big 12.  I don’t buy further ACC expansion without Notre Dame for one second, and I don’t buy Notre Dame joining any conference for one second.) Therefore, schools like Memphis, Temple or my personal favorite of Tulane that make more sense as all-sports members as opposed to football-only members would likely get passed over in favor of further western expansion.

A key issue will be when the Big 12 and ABC/ESPN start renegotiating their TV contract.  Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds indicated last month that ABC/ESPN were ready “to talk early”.  Chuck Neinas has been in this game before, so he knows that if the Big 12 truly wants to expand back to 12, it needs to do so prior to that time so that it can offer ABC/ESPN a conference championship game as part of the TV package.  The moment that those parties actually start talking, though, the chances of a purposeful near-term Big 12 expansion* drop down precipitously.

(* Purposeful means expansion by proactive choice as opposed to a reaction to defections.)

If the Big East gets through that process unscathed, then 2015 won’t look so far away.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from NBC Sports)

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Out of all of the quotes that came out of the Bowl Championship Series meetings held yesterday, none drew more attention than those from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. A month ago, Delany seemed to be taking a defiant stand against any type of expansion of the college football postseason, including a plus-one. At the BCS meetings, though, he indicated a much more open mind toward discussing changes to the current system:

“It was far more open,” the Big Ten’s commissioner, Jim Delany, said. “Four years ago there were five guys who didn’t want to have the discussion. Everyone here fully participated in it.”

Delany had been one of the commissioners who did not even want to discuss a playoff then, but he described himself as “interested, curious and fully participating” Tuesday. He said he would meet in January with the presidents and athletic directors of the universities in his conference to discuss the possibilities for college football’s postseason.

“The environment has changed in the sense that we had five people who didn’t want to talk about it, of the seven founders,” Delany said. “And I think the seven founders were the conferences plus Notre Dame, and four years ago five of us didn’t want to have the conversation. Now people want to have the conversation. I don’t know where our institutions will be on any of this, but I think that in good faith we have to engage and be curious and be open and see where we go.”

This is massive news. Even though this is at only a discussion stage and it’s been indicated that no two conferences are “in the same place” regarding what they want in a new system, the fact that Delany did not immediately shoot down the concept of a plus-one (unlike what had occurred when a seeded plus-one was proposed by the SEC and ACC in 2008) is a significant step toward change. That likely means that Delany received some direction from the Big Ten presidents (who, just like in conference realignment, are the only people that matter as opposed to athletic directors and coaches) to at least listen to what the market is offering as opposed to taking an ironclad stand. Considering that the Big Ten is the largest single power player that needs to be moved on the plus-one format just as a general concept (much less the details), there’s a much greater chance that the BCS system (to the extent that there is even the term “BCS” anymore) will look significantly different when it’s presented to ESPN later this year for a possible TV contract extension that will start in the 2013 season.

As a reminder, there are a couple of things to remember as you read articles about possible changes to the BCS system over the coming months:

  • The term “plus-one” is NOT interchangeable with “4-team playoff” – Some mainstream media types (such as Pete Thamel of the New York Times) have been better at making this clear than others. Most pundits seem to automatically assume that a “plus-one” is the same thing as a 4-team playoff, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. As I’ve described before, a 4-team playoff is only one variant of a plus-one system. There is also an unseeded plus-one option along with different strains in between that could be called “semi-seeded”. The old adage that the “devil is in the details” couldn’t ring any truer than in this situation. There are going to a lot of different plus-one scenarios discussed and I’d wager that what we ultimately end up with won’t be the simple 4-team playoff that many are assuming is end game.
  • Removal of AQ status is NOT interchangeable with the removal of conference contractual tie-ins – The potential removal of the concept of automatic qualifying status is another issue that much of the mainstream media makes a large deal about but often doesn’t explain clearly. As I’ve explained previously, this is largely a matter of semantics for every current AQ conference except for the Big East. The concept of AQ status might go away, but rest assured that the Rose Bowl will still have contractual tie-ins with the Big Ten and Pac-12 no matter what happens and that will likely be the case with the Sugar Bowl and SEC, Orange Bowl and ACC, and Fiesta Bowl and Big 12. The Cotton Bowl might swoop in to get the top Big 12 tie-in, but the overarching point is that those five power conferences are going to continue to have de facto AQ status through their contractual tie-ins even if the actual term “AQ status” goes away. No one should be fooled into thinking that the BCS bowls are just going to take the top 8 or 10 teams in the BCS rankings if AQ status is removed. The entire reason why the Big Ten and SEC actually agree on the removal of AQ status is that the power conferences will actually end up with more top bowl bids based on brand names as opposed to strict merit.

So, what exactly are the key issues to overcome in order to actually make changes to the BCS system? Here are some further items to think about:

1. The Seven Founders – It’s telling that in Jim Delany’s quotes about the openness to discussing a plus-one, he specifically referenced the “Seven Founders” of the BCS system: the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big 12, ACC, Big East and that massive coast-to-coast conference known as the University of Notre Dame. What it means is that any opposition to a particular proposal by the Big Ten (and potentially the Pac-12 and Notre Dame) shouldn’t be framed as being against the wishes of the 9 other FBS conferences. Instead, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Notre Dame represent 3 of the Seven Founders, which means that the SEC and ACC can’t just ram their old seeded plus-one proposal through. It also shows that the opinions of the non-AQ conferences literally don’t matter here. They might technically have a vote and can provide some input, but nothing is going to be changed unless it makes the Seven Founders happy.

2. Big East as a Swing Vote? – The fact that the Big East, at least for now, is still considered to be one of the Seven Founders (despite the fact that the only current Big East football member that was part of the league when the BCS system began in 1998 is Rutgers) could become a key point. It seems clear that the SEC and ACC support a seeded plus-one, with the Big 12 probably jumping aboard. On the other side, the Big Ten, Pac-12* and Notre Dame appear to be fairly aligned. With a potential 3-3 deadlock, where the Big East ends up could become the deciding factor to the system that ultimately gets put into place. From a pure Big East standpoint, this is a great thing since it can leverage that swing vote position (the Justice Kennedy of the BCS) to possibly preserve access to the top bowls that it might not otherwise receive if the all of the bowl selections went to an open market. For example, the new system might require each BCS bowl to have a contractual tie-in with one of the Seven Founders, which means that if a fifth BCS bowl is added (such as the Cotton Bowl), one of them will need to have a tie-in with the Big East. That Big East tie-in could be made much more palatable if it includes access to Notre Dame (i.e. a bowl can select the higher ranked of either Notre Dame or the Big East champ in any given year). Speaking of which, Notre Dame certainly has a self-interest in preserving the Big East, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Big East ends up in a voting bloc with the Irish, Big Ten and Pac-12 since the Domers are going to be more willing to offer the fledgling league protection than, say the ACC and Big 12 that just raided them. To be sure, the Big East isn’t anywhere near out of the woods yet (as the prospect of the Big 12 raiding it again for Louisville and Rutgers is the one conference realignment move that I see is plausible over the next year), but at least it’s not completely all doom and gloom.

(* Many in the media believe that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is willing to break with tradition with his aggressive nature, but he hasn’t really said anything different compared to Jim Delany up to this point regarding the plus-one. If anything, preserving the value of the Rose Bowl is even more important to the Pac-12 than the Big Ten. All of the major bowls across the country would love to have contractual tie-ins with the Big Ten, as evidenced by the fact that the conference has received more at-large BCS bowl bids than any other conference, including the vaunted SEC. For the Pac-12, though, the specific Rose Bowl tie-in is really the only leg up that it has over the ACC in its overall bowl lineup. The Big Ten can draw bowl interest from literally every region of the country in a manner that the Pac-12 will never be able to do.)

3. The Divergent Interests of University Presidents, Bowls and ESPN – Many college football playoff proposals often start with, “This is so simple. WHY CAN’T THEY DO THIS?” The issue, of course, is that it’s not simple at all with all of the entrenched interests involve that are often at odds with each other.

For example, ESPN has said that it’s on board with having the title game closer to New Year’s Day. That certainly makes sense in order to counter “bowl fatigue” being experience by TV viewers, but it also means that would make it virtually impossible to have the bowls host semifinals in a seeded plus-one or to create a #1 vs. #2 matchup after the bowls are played in an unseeded plus-one. Having schools host games on their home fields in December could alleviate that, but that also means shutting the bowls out of that first round process and whether you like it or not, that’s NOT happening. Even Dan Wetzel, who has made a career out of demonizing the bowl system with his book “Death to the BCS”, acknowledges that a plus-one system will need to incorporate the bowls in some manner because of their power. People can keep wishing that weren’t the case, but it is what it is.

The notion that the top bowls could be played in mid-December or even around Christmas is also something that won’t work practically. As anyone in the travel industry will tell you, the 2 weeks in December leading up to Christmas is the slowest travel period of the year, which is logical since few people want to take days off right before the holidays. That’s why the top bowls avoid dates in prior to and bracketing Christmas like the plague. The lower level bowls only agree to those earlier dates because that’s the only way that they can receive TV coverage.

At the same time, TV executives have access to larger potential audiences after January 1st (which is why TV networks air mostly reruns throughout the entire month of December) and on weeknights, while the bowls are best served by dates between Christmas and New Years Day when more people have time off. Neither the TV networks nor the bowls want to compete with NFL playoff games that are on the weekends at the beginning of the year, either, so those midweek January games (even if the TV networks and bowls are sincere in wanting to get rid of them) are tough to move.

University presidents will throw out some arguments such as having too long of a season or that they want to prevent football from becoming a two-semester sport. Even if they are sincere about that (and it’s hard for me to take them seriously when the other revenue sport of basketball has practices that start in October and the NCAA Tournament ends in April), it directly conflicts with their own desire to work with the bowls and TV networks that effectively push the most desirable games into January.

Lest we forget, there are also fans! (Who the heck thinks about them?) It’s asking a lot of even hardcore football fans to travel to one bowl game, particularly in this economy. Asking them to travel to two neutral site games is stretching it very thin, while having them travel to even more neutral site games in an 8-team playoff scenario (which won’t be happening in practicality, but it will still get proposed) is virtually impossible. This could be solved by having earlier games played at teams’ home fields, yet we run into the problem that the bowls must be included.

When push comes to shove, I believe a plus-one national championship game will be played in mid-January, with possibly Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a regular date for the game since that’s a holiday weekend for a fair number of people on a Monday that falls about 2 weeks after the bowls are completed. The timing generally works as a week turnaround from the last bowl game to the national championship game is practically too short for the players and fans, so as much as people want to compress the length of the bowl season, it needs to be closer to a two-week gap. The concept of “bowl fatigue” is likely more of a function that none of the bowl games besides the national championship game and maybe the Rose Bowl have much meaning, which would change if a plus-one is instituted. (I’ve never heard of anyone getting “basketball fatigue” during the course of the 3-week NCAA Tournament. If people believe that the games matter, they will happily watch.)

Also, ticket sales to the national championship game are much less sensitive to dates and the ability for fans to travel compared to the bowls if only because there are so many more tickets allocated to corporate partners for that game (similar to the Super Bowl). No matter what date the national championship game is held, it’s going to sell out easily. In contrast, moving a bowl game from near New Year’s Day to prior to Christmas can be a killer from a ticket sale perspective. That’s a further argument that the plus-one championship game will end up later in January as opposed to close to New Year’s Day.

Finally, university presidents are in much less of a position to turn down revenue in a time of shrinking endowments and state budget cuts to public colleges compared to the last time a plus-one system was proposed in 2008. Some estimates out there show that the BCS TV contract could double from its current $125 million per year level to around $250 million per year if there’s a plus-one game. Note that this figure doesn’t even include the separate Rose Bowl TV contract. So, are university presidents going to be taking a principled stand against a further extension of the college football season when all that is happening is the addition of one game featuring two teams (out of 120 FBS schools) being played in mid-January and will add about $1 million to $2 million per year to each of their schools’ coffers without any effort whatsoever? The extra revenue from a plus-one game is so large with such little practical change to the current system (literally the addition of a single game) that it’s low hanging fruit which the university presidents likely can’t resist.

To be clear, the possible (if not probable) changes to the BCS system are NOT arising from the all-SEC national championship game this year. This is about the powers that be witnessing postseason bowl ticket sales and TV ratings trending down in the long-term, which translates into lost revenue. That wasn’t the case in 2008 when there were recent national championship games featuring all-”king” matchups, such as Texas-USC in 2005 and Ohio State-Florida in 2006, that saw boffo ratings numbers. (Meanwhile, regular season college football ticket sales and TV ratings are as strong as ever.) A plus-one game is a relatively non-disruptive way on paper to alleviate a lot of those concerns about the state of the college football postseason with pretty much an instant jolt in revenue, which is why it’s now getting a whole lot of traction today. The details of what that plus-one system will actually look like, though, will take much of this year to resolve.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from Birmingham News)

As we approach this year’s national championship game along with record low TV ratings for the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl, the conversation around college football regarding massive changes to the current BCS system continues to heat up.  SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who had presented a top 4 seeded plus-one proposal in 2008, has explicitly stated that he “does not think those changes are going to be tweaks.” Plugged-in Andy Staples from Sports Illustrated predicts that the conferences will agree upon a plus-one system and the elimination of automatic qualifying status for conferences this year.  We have recently discussed various plus-one proposals here and here, while Inside the Shoe attempts to project what bowl tie-ins would look like if and when AQ status is eliminated.  Some takeaways and predictions:

1. The Plus-One is Seriously Coming – Everything that I’ve seen and heard is that some type of plus-one system to determine the national champion is coming.  However, as I’ve stated previously, it can’t be assumed that it will come in the form of a top 4 playoff.  An unseeded plus-one where the BCS rankings are recalculated after the bowls to determine the national title game matchup or some type of semi-seeded format (such as the Halfway There Compromise) is certainly possible.  Maybe we’ll still end up with the top 4 playoff that is what most people think of when talking about a plus-one (in which case, I recommend the BCS Final Four format), but my feeling is that an unseeded format is what will be put into place as a compromise for the Big Ten and Rose Bowl.  Could the SEC and other conferences technically outvote the Big Ten on this issue?  Absolutely.  Will they choose to do so?  I have my reservations on that front.  We’re not talking about an objection from the WAC or MAC here that can be easily ignored.  The people in charge really want all of the current AQ conferences unanimously on board.  In my heart of hearts, I think Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is actually fine with a plus-one privately, but selling it to the Big Ten presidents is not an easy task, which is why he has the public position of opposing it entirely.  Getting a true Big Ten champ vs. Pac-12 champ Rose Bowl back (plus lots of TV money for that plus-one championship game) could be the hook to obtaining presidential consent.

2. Eliminating AQ Status is About Three BCS Bowl Bids for Each of the SEC and Big Ten – Whatever differences Slive and Delany might have regarding a plus-one, they are completely on the same page about eliminating AQ status.  Of course, it’s completely self-serving, as the SEC and Big Ten are the conferences seeking three BCS bowl bids each (or even guaranteed in a system where all of those bowls will have contractual tie-ins).  If you look at the bowl payouts in the marketplace, you already see that SEC #3 and Big Ten #3 carry more value than the #2 teams from the Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 (and even those are skewed since those bowls are really selecting SEC #4 and Big Ten #4 as those two leagues are already all but assured of receiving two BCS bowl bids annually in the current system).  You can also see it in the selections of the BCS bowls themselves, as they continuously pick SEC and Big Ten schools for at-large bids even if there are higher ranked teams available from other power conferences.  So, this isn’t just about the SEC and Big Ten guaranteeing themselves 2 BCS bowl bids since they already have that in today’s format.  Slive and Delany are looking for changes because they know that their leagues can get even more in either a market-oriented bowl system or removing the 2 BCS bowl bids per conference limit in a modified at-large selection process.

This is what the bowls want, too.  The Sugar Bowl and TV executives aren’t looking at the 12,000 empty seats and low ratings for the Michigan-Virginia Tech matchup and thinking, “Boy, we should have really invited Boise State instead.”  To the contrary, they’re thinking, “We need to change the system so that we could have taken #6 Arkansas as a third SEC team.  Arkansas vs. Michigan would have been gangbusters!”

3. More Bowl Tie-ins or Floaters… or a Horse of a Different Color? – It’s still an open question as to how those top bowls fill in what are currently at-large BCS spots.  The Inside the Shoe post linked above suggests different contractual tie-ins for those spots.  Some commenters here have suggested the concept of “floater” spots (i.e. a bowl can take a team from a pool of several leagues), although that begs the question of how much different that would be from the current at-large selection system.  From the bowl perspective, there seems to be a tension between avoiding the “undesirable” non-AQ and Big East teams that they have been forced to take under the current BCS system (which would suggest more contractual tie-ins with leagues like the SEC and Big Ten) and the desire to have some flexibility to take the best available teams (i.e. the second selection from the Big 12 isn’t that attractive if it’s Kansas State, but a bowl definitely wants a second selection from the Big 12 if it can take Texas or Oklahoma).

There also has to be an eye toward avoiding antitrust issues.  I have long believed that an antitrust case against the current BCS system would ultimately be a loser partially because it allows for non-AQ conference access that would never have come to fruition otherwise.  Therefore, even if there was collusion between the BCS bowls and AQ conferences, the non-AQ conferences wouldn’t be able to show any damages since eliminating the BCS system would actually take away revenue and access from them.  Think of it as a college football version of the famous USFL antitrust lawsuit against the NFL: the USFL technically won the lawsuit by showing that the NFL was an illegal monopoly, but was only awarded $1 in damages (which is trebled for a Sherman Act violation, so it actually received $3).  Eliminating the BCS system overall but then having the top bowls fill in at-large sports with “floater” teams that practically shut off access to non-AQ schools, though, is much more problematic from an antitrust perspective.  The concept of floaters would almost certainly require some level of collusion between the bowls which, in this case, would truly be to the detriment of those non-AQ schools.

One way to circumvent antitrust issues while providing the BCS bowls with more at-large selection flexibility is to expand the merit-based quotient slightly.  For instance, there could be 5 BCS bowls (assuming that the Cotton Bowl is added as the fifth game) for a total of 10 bids just as today.  5 of those bids would go to the 5 power conferences with contractual tie-ins.  There could then be a provision that all schools in the top 5 of the BCS rankings would be guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl (a slight uptick from the top 4 protection now).  Maybe there would be 5 bids granted to current non-AQ conferences in one year and maybe there would be zero bids in the next year, but in either case, that type of merit-based allowance is likely what would allow that system to pass antitrust muster.  This ensures that if there’s an “undesirable” team that must be included, it’s at least going to be a top 5 school that would have a legit shot at the national title in an unseeded plus-one system and then the bowls can pick whoever else that they want otherwise.  A seeded plus-one, which would inherently grant auto-bids to the top 4 ranked schools, would also make things much easier for the BCS from a legal standpoint.

My gut feeling is that the modification to the current BCS system is ultimately more likely than a complete break-off between the national championship game and the bowls.  The top bowls themselves still want a BCS designation (as it distinguishes them from everyone else) and would likely value more flexibility in filling what are currently their at-large spots than having straight conference tie-ins.

4. Are Non-AQ Conferences Exchanging Bowl Access for More National Championship Game Revenue? – One interesting aspect of all of these proposed changes is that the non-AQ conferences seem to be willing to give up access to top bowl games that they would have never received in the pre-BCS days.  Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson is on the record that he would rather see AQ status eliminated across the board over even the MWC receiving AQ status for the next two seasons.  The main argument is that the AQ and non-AQ labels have artificially created a caste system between the two designations.  Now, that seems like a pretty weak position for giving up access to top tier bowl games.  Regardless of whether there are AQ or non-AQ statuses, everyone is going to recognize that there’s a clear delineation between the power conferences and the non-power conferences.  (We’ll get to where the Big East fits on that spectrum in a moment.)  As much as the power conferences control the college football postseason, it would still be unusual for the non-AQ leagues to give up access after fighting for it for so long unless they’re getting something in return.  What gives?

One plausible way that the non-AQs can get something out of a return to a more traditional bowl system is that they would give up major bowl access and revenue to the power conferences in exchange for equal shares of the revenue that is generated by the plus-one national championship game.  This actually makes some sense.  The bowls have always been designed to be extensions of their local tourism bureaus where selections are merit-influenced (as better teams generally have fans that are more likely to be motivated to travel and watch games) but not completely merit-based.  The top games want a combination of strong traveling fan bases, brand names and TV drawing power, which is why they gravitate to the power conferences.  Thus, if we define “fairness” as an adherence to free market principles (as opposed to redistribution of income or open access), it’s completely fair that the bowls pay more to the top leagues with the most popular teams.  In contrast, the national championship game explicitly does not have any conference tie-ins (although SEC fans surely argue that they ought to have one).  The national title game is something that should equitably be shared by all conferences because, at least on paper (if not in practice), every team has a chance to make that game based on pure merit.  Thus, it’s inequitable that a #1 SEC team ought to get paid more than a #2 Mountain West team for making that game (which is actually what would happen in today’s system).

At least in my mind, it would be consistent to allow for the power conferences to receive all of the revenue for the top bowls (which have a heavy popularity component), but all conferences ought to share the national championship game revenue equally.  Presumably, all parties involved would see hefty increases in revenue as a result of this allocation system and it property reflects their interests, where the non-AQ conferences can’t honestly claim equal status with the power conferences in terms of bowl desirability because that simply isn’t true, but ought to be able to claim equal status in terms of access to the national championship game that should be based purely on merit.  (Any arguments that a non-AQ school getting to national championship game is almost impossible are noted, but that’s a practical consideration as opposed to a structural/contractual/financial issue.  The “system” should eliminate the latter because that’s within its control.  However, there’s only so much that can be done once it’s put into practice.  This even applies to more “open access” systems such as the NCAA Tournament or FCS playoffs, where power conferences and programs have still emerged.)

5. Big East: The One That Wants the Status Quo – By most accounts, 10 of the 11 FBS conferences want to eliminate AQ status.  The one holdout, not surprisingly, is the Big East.  As I’ve stated in previous posts, “eliminating AQ status” is really a matter of semantics for the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big 12 and ACC because they all would still retain their contractual tie-ins with the BCS bowls.  Whether or not there’s a delineation between AQ and non-AQ leagues, nothing will really change for the champions of those 5 power conferences.  In contrast, AQ status means everything to the Big East since it doesn’t have any contractual tie-ins with the top bowls and likely couldn’t get them on its own.  To have a chance at a tie-in with one of those top bowls, the Big East would probably have to make a deal with the devil and offer liberal access to Notre Dame, such as allowing a bowl to take the Irish if they are ranked higher than the Big East champion in a given year.  Even then, that might not be enough.  Considering that the Big East created a new coast-to-coast league including Boise State and San Diego State with an explicit eye toward ensuring that the league would meet any BCS AQ numerical criteria, all of that effort may have been in vain.  Of course, the new Big East will still be better off for TV purposes than if it had solely added more geographically-friendly (but less sexy) schools east of the Mississippi River, so it was an expansion that the league had to do in the wake of Syracuse and Pitt defecting to the ACC and West Virginia leaving for the Big 12.  It’s just that an automatic tie-in to a top bowl (and the revenue that comes with it) is no longer assured for the Big East.  In a college football world where there’s largely a clear line between the upper class elite and the lower class, the Big East is the one middle class conference.

Changes in college football have come in very small increments.  It’s easy to forget that there has only been national championship game for the past 13 years, with the Bowl Alliance and Bowl Coalition being precursors and a sole reliance on polls prior to them.  This might be the year where a giant step is made.

(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111 and Facebook)

(Image from Atlanta Journal-Constitution)