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CHICAGO - The Jell-O mold of the Big Ten's future football lineup is taking formation by the minute.
An industry source said the Holiday Bowl and Big Ten are close to finishing a six-year agreement. The bowl will pick second in the Pac-12 and third in the Big Ten after the playoff and access bowls make their selections starting with the 2014 season. Officials cautioned that no deals are final, but they are optimistic.
"I think when the dust settles, you can speculate that the Big Ten is coming (to the Holiday Bowl), and you'll be OK," said the source with direct knowledge of discussions.
“They really take care of the student-athlete experience, they make sure that's a high level,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said. “Historically, they have a great brand because of the great football games that have been played over the years.
“If that ended up being one of our bowls, I can speak positively to the experience there.”
The Big Ten previously contracted a representative to the San Diego-based Holiday Bowl from 1991-1994. The Big Ten also sent teams to San Diego from 1986 through 1988. Iowa has appeared in the game three times, winning two games by one point each and tying the other game against BYU.
"We have expressed interest in the Big Ten, and we're looking at all of our options at this point," said Bruce Binkowski, executive director of the Holiday Bowl. "I can't really say anything until things are finalized."
"I think all of us are very positive about the Holiday Bowl," Wisconsin Athletics Director Barry Alvarez said. "When I was at Iowa, we played in it for years. It was a great bowl. I don't think we've signed anything, but I know that's one that we'd be interested in."
Alvarez is a Hall of Fame football coach at Wisconsin and a former assistant at Iowa.
The New York-based Pinstripe Bowl also appears certain to join the Big Ten's lineup.The bowl's current agreement matches the Big East (renamed American) with the Big 12. That bowl likely will pit the Big Ten against the ACC at Yankee Stadium.
"I think New York City around Christmastime is one of the most beautiful places in the world, or around the holidays," Penn State Athletics Director Dave Joyner said. "I think people will find it's a really great place to play."
"It sure seems like it," Alvarez said about the Pinstripe Bowl joining the Big Ten lineup. "I think everybody's in favor of that."
The league already has deals in place with the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl. The Big Ten champion is guaranteed to play in the Rose Bowl in eight of the next 12 seasons. The Rose Bowl hosts a semifinal game in the other four years.
A non-Big Ten champion will play at least three times against the ACC in the Orange Bowl over the next 12 years. If the league champion cannot appear in the Rose Bowl because of the semifinals, it will compete in another access bowl that season.
The league expects to extend long-standing relationships with the Capital One and Outback bowls. The Capital One has selected first among the Big Ten's non-BCS bowl teams each year since 1993. The Outback Bowl's relationship with the Big Ten began in 1994. It has the second pick among non-BCS Big Ten teams. Both games match the league with the SEC.
ESPN reported the Big Ten and ACC will share bids for the Music City (Nashville, Tenn.) and Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.) bowls over the next six years. The Big Ten will earn three spots in each bowl.
It's also likely the Big Ten will stay with at least one Texas bowl, probably the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the old Cotton Bowl., and maintain its relationship with the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl (Detroit). It's also possible the league will reach agreements with the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, Ariz.) and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (San Francisco).
“If that ended up being one of our bowls, I can speak positively to the experience there," Barta said.