Thursday, September 20, 2012

Orange Bowl Deal Set to Lock Big East Out of Major Bowl Picture

When the Orange Bowl signed a deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference that guaranteed them a spot in the game every year, this headline was probably inevitable. The Orange Bowl is close to a deal that would pit the ACC champion against either Notre Dame, a Big 10 team or an SEC team. The Big East, which has long been affiliated with the Orange Bowl, has effectively been shut out of the game.

There were a lot of folks who thought the new college football world order would be an improvement over the current landscape. While the new four game playoff is a sight for sore eyes, the system surrounding the four game playoff seem more crooked than ever.

In the old days before the BCS, the Big 8 (precursor to the Big 12 conference) champion would be matched up against an eastern Independent, which in the 80's and early 90s, was often the home town Miami Hurricanes. When the Hurricanes moved to the Big East conference, the Orange Bowl began an affiliation with the conference that lasted until the current deal.

In the current, soon to be dead system, bowl games had a bit of latitude to take the best possible game you could configure from the six automatic qualifier champions. While bowls definitely had preferences on who would play – the Rose Bowl will hold onto its Big 10 versus Pac 12 matchup with its cold dead hand – the conference affiliations with bowls were less concrete than in the previous bowl system, allowing for a larger variety of potential matchups.

That seems to be dead. The Orange Bowl will be contractually obligated to take an ACC team, even if the ACC champion has made the four team playoff. That ACC team will play Notre Dame if it qualifies for a major bowl. Depending on what teams make the playoff and which bowl games are hosting in a given season, an SEC or Big 10 champion could be available for the Orange Bowl if Notre Dame is not qualified to play.

The one thing you will never see in an Orange Bowl again is a Big East champion getting a chance to drop 70 points on a hapless ACC champion ever again. The ACC has been involved in a decade long war with the Big East during which the ACC has won every off the field battle while largely being humiliated on the field. The ACC has the worst record of any conference in BCS games, while the Big East has one of the best.

But with their Orange Bowl deal, their Notre Dame deal and the various raids of Big East schools, the ACC seems to have cemented its supremacy over the Big East. The Big East has yet to align itself with a major bowl game and seems cut out of the system altogether. "There are no automatic qualifier conferences" actually means "there is one fewer automatic qualifier conference."

Notre Dame's role in all of this is a bit curious. The Fighting Irish, for all intents and purposes, are members of the ACC when it comes time to decide who will go to the second tier and lower bowls. But when it comes time to decide who will play in the major bowls, Notre Dame is considered a separate entity. And given Notre Dame's scheduling deal with the ACC, it's very likely the Orange Bowl could feature a rematch of a game the public already saw.

The whole arrangement is farcical and nakedly corrupt. It is therefore the most fitting college football deal imaginable.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.
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