It's a playoff but where and how often?
A phrase in Tuesday's ACC/Orange Bowl release reaffirmed the disparity of semifinal sites likely in upcoming years. In announcing the ACC's partnership with the Orange Bowl, the release stated, “it's anticipated that the Orange Bowl will host at least four semifinal games in the new recently announced arrangement …”
At least? Big 12 consultant Chuck Neinas and BCS executive director Bill Hancock have told CBSSports.com it remains uncertain how many times the Rose and Champions bowls will host semifinals. Both bowls have reasons to host less than four semifinals each over the course of the 12-year agreement. (24 semifinals in 12 years divided by six bowls = four each.)
We all know the Rose would prefer to have its Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup as often as possible. A little known codicil at the end of the current BCS deal required the Rose to take a non-BCS school only once in an eight-year period. (That was TCU in 2011).
The Big 12 and SEC own the Champions Bowl, essentially a start-up whose valuation grows by the day. The two leagues could find more money playing outside the semifinal (more often than not) with a separate rightsholder.
So, Tuesday was an especially good day for the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Atlanta (Chick-fil-A group) bowls in terms of national championship exposure. Those are the four bowls that could host semifinals more than four times given the Rose and Champions leanings.
The champions of the Pac-12 and Big Ten are committed to the Rose. The SEC and Big 12 champs would play in the new Champions. If any of those teams are ranked in the top four, they would play in national semifinals. The conference(s) would then name the replacement(s).
The idea is simple in the new bowl landscape: The more you matter, the less chance you have of fading away. In less than a week we've seen a de-centralization of the bowl process. The major bowls, at least, are now controlled by the conferences instead of the bowls themselves.
(Disclaimer: For these purposes, we are assuming at this point that both the Champions and Atlanta group will be part of the six-bowl rotation. Things could change or be adjusted.)
The Orange, Rose and Champions have or will be selling their broadcast rights separately. The Sugar, Fiesta and supposedly Atlanta (that Chick-fil-A group) will be bundled along with the semifinals and championship game as a separate entity over the 12-year term of the deal.
With that in mind, think of Atlanta, New Orleans, Phoenix and South Florida each able to host at least five semifinals in a 12-year period beginning in 2014. Maybe one or two will have a semi half the time (six times in 12 years!) That's without taking into account any of those cities bidding on the championship game. (At least Atlanta, New Orleans and South Florida will).
In essence, the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC are secure enough in their teams' ability to compete for national championships that their bowls don't have to part of the playoff on a regular basis. Teams from those four leagues have won national championships in 16 of the last 18 years.