Any contracted bowl status for independents – specifically BYU – has not been accounted for to date in the formation of a possible seventh playoff bowl in the new postseason beginning in 2014.
“It has not been discussed,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told CBSSports.com “It's something that conferences and school are figuring out to do.”
Another BCS source confirmed Scott's assertion that the issue is so new that it simply hasn't been dealt with. Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, whose teams would be involved in that seventh bowl that could accommodate the independents would not comment.
BYU is clearly the most significant program that could be impacted out of a group of a possible five independents in 2014 when the playoff begins. It has the highest profile, largest budget and biggest commitment to football among the indies. BYU is the only non-BCS school to win a national championship in the wire service era. (Army was considered a major power when it won in the 1940s.)
A seventh playoff bowl still in the works would match the highest-ranked team from the so-called Group of Five (Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt, MAC, Big East) against a team from the Pac-12, Big-12 or possibly others. That leaves those independents as the only schools without “contract” access to a playoff bowl if they don't finish in the top four.
With up to eight spots accounted for in those contract bowls owned by the major conferences – for now, Rose, Orange, Champions -- the independents only entry point would be in the three other access – or “open” – bowls. Schools playing in those access bowls would have to reach a standard (top 12, top 14 most likely) to get in.
Whether any of the independents, besides BYU, would have that chance is unlikely given their history. In 2013, the other independents are likely to be Army, Navy, New Mexico State and Idaho.
“Independents will have access to the access bowls based on performance and ranking,” Scott said. “There's nothing to stop an independent from [contracting with its own bowl]. No one said Notre Dame has to be part of that deal or any other deal. But they have value and they were invited. That's the market.”
Notre Dame recently said it would join the ACC in most all sports but football. In football, it is establishing a scheduling agreement with the league playing five ACC schools per year. As part of the partnership, the Irish will have access to all of the ACC's bowls including the Orange. CBSSports.com reported that beginning in 2014, the Orange will host the ACC champion against the highest-ranked available teams among Notre Dame, SEC and the Big Ten.
Last week, commissioners said they would explore establishing that seventh bowl to accommodate that Group of Five. That leaves the status of the independents in question.
“It hasn't been decided if we are doing that,” Scott said of the seventh bowl. “If we did that it would be very similar to the role the SEC and Big Ten play with the ACC in this Orange Bowl. It would be a closed bowl.”
However, Scott also stressed that it would “be a shame real shame if all that progress and all that success were clouded by continued discussions about access and haves and have nots. I'm certainly in favor of creating more access points.”
BYU is in the second year of independence having left the Mountain West after the 2010 season. It has an eight-year broadcast partnership with ESPN which is helping the school fill its schedule.
Beginning in 2014, the top four schools ranked by a human committee will play for the national championship. Up to 10 more teams will play in other playoff bowls. The Rose, Champions and Orange are contracted with the top five conferences and Notre Dame. If the seventh bowl is established it would account for access for the approximately 60 schools in those five other non-BCS leagues.
The independents issue arose when discussions began about the seventh bowl. If that bowl becomes reality, it is possible that the only schools in FBS not assured of access to a contracted bowl could be – for now -- BYU, Idaho, New Mexico State, Army and Navy.
Navy's status would change quickly. It is joining the Big East in 2015. With the WAC folding, New Mexico State has announced it will play as an independent in 2013. Idaho is in the process of filling its schedule with the intent of going independent in 2013. There are no solid plans beyond that year. There has been talk of trying to reform the WAC.
An Army spokesman said, “Our mission to be the best at West Point we can be. There's too many plusses being an independent.”