ARTICLE

Big Ten breathes life into next round of bowls

No five trips to the same state or back-to-back destinations

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany spoke to conference media after the Big Ten spring meetings Wednesday in Chicago.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany spoke to conference media after the Big Ten spring meetings Wednesday in Chicago.

CHICAGO -- The buzzwords you hear on the Big Ten's new bowl lineup are "national," "diverse" and "recruiting."

The conference has seemingly achieved national with bowl deals from the Holiday Bowl in San Diego to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York. The diversity stems from the less sexy word, "fatigue." Many times schools ended up stuck in a Florida or Arizona cycle. Fans burned out and the numbers showed attendance dropped.

The Big Ten is acutely aware that if it's going to run the race with the SEC for national championships, it's going to have to broaden recruiting scope. That also was part of the B1G's bowl plan, which will be announced in the next week or two.

The new model also will move away from a pure selection process by the bowls to pools of teams divided among multiple bowls with the decision made by the conferences, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday at the Big Ten spring meetings.

"We'll probably be somewhere between a selection and a conference placement," he said. "We'll give a lot of conditions to each bowl and they'll have to get conference approval for the selection that they choose."

The next round of bowl deals will be for six years. Delany said that a bowl that signs with the Big Ten will have to pick five different schools in those six years.

"The goal is going to be that we keep these games fresh," he said. "Also, that the bowls create the best possible lineup. I think there's been some fatigue. There is a lot of competition for discretionary spending. I don't think fans are going to be interested in going to the same region over and over and over again."

For example, Wisconsin played six bowls games in Florida from 2005 through 2009. This included four stops in Orlando, two for the Capital One and two for the Champs Sports Bowl.

"We had a stretch of five years where we were in Orlando," Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said. "We've had the last three years in Pasadena (Rose Bowl), and I'm not going to complain about that, but if you look at the attendance, it goes down each time you return. That's one factor that should place a team somewhere else."

Iowa played in back-to-back Insight Bowls (2010-11) and actually saw an increase in attendance (53,453 to 54,247). That probably had more to do with Oklahoma being the opponent in '11.

Outside of that anomaly, "We needed to recognize that there's some bowl fatigue," Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said. "The attendance numbers are pretty straight forward. The attendance is down, so we needed some creativity to get from the normal process of selections and get to a process where we can assign.

"I think that creativity is going to help us a little bit when you have a team or multiple teams going to the same site back-to-back. It's not healthy. It's not healthy for the bowl, it's not healthy for the kids, it's not healthy for the fans."

Along with that, the Big Ten concedes that there will be a drop in bowl payouts, but also there will be more flexibility in ticket allotments. Smith said the schools are aware they take a hit when fans buy bowl tickets from third-party vendors.

Delany said the conference looked back at the last 18 years and broke them down into six segments. Along with the "five different schools in six years" parameter, another Delany mentioned was a school could play in Orlando and then Tampa the next year, but then couldn't play in Florida a third consecutive year.

"Obviously, you can go to the Rose Bowl as many times as you want," Delany said. "We don't have control over that, but other than that, we're trying to get different teams into different bowls and different environments as much as we can and still give them [bowls] some control over the quality of team they're getting."

The Rose Bowl remains the ultimate goal. The B1G champion will go to Pasadena, Calif., unless the Rose Bowl is a national semifinal and a B1G team doesn't qualify for the Playoff or isn't placed in Pasadena. The Big Ten champion will appear in another major bowl (Fiesta, Cotton, Sugar or Chick-fil-A Peach) in years it's not in the Rose.

Also remember, the Big Ten will appear in the Orange Bowl at least three times in the next 12-year cycle.

Outside of the major bowls, the Capital One and Outback are expected to remain affiliated with the B1G. ESPN.com reported earlier this week the Big Ten has agreed to a six-year share agreement with the ACC for the Music City (Nashville, Tenn.) and Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.)

The Gazette reported Tuesday that the Holiday Bowl will be in the Big Ten mix, with a six-year deal in offing for the San Diego bowl. Alvarez strongly hinted Tuesday that the B1G has a deal in the works with the Pinstripe Bowl, which is played at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

Other bowls in the Big Ten mix include Heart of Dallas in Dallas, Kraft Fight Hunger in San Francisco and the Little Caesars Pizza in Detroit.

"There will be some places we won't return to," Delany said. "There will be some new venues and there will be some places we're returning to. . . . To have a national slate, to have diversity, to create a fresh approach for fans, will all bode well."

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