If finalized, a seventh playoff bowl worth approximately one-quarter that of the Rose Bowl will be added in 2014.
Industry sources told CBSSports.com that the as-yet unsold, unnamed bowl would be worth approximately $20 million in the TV market, $60 million less than the top tier Rose and (pending deal with the) Champions bowl. But the money is less of a factor than the new bowl's creation itself, which will give access to the five current non-BCS conferences, including the Big East, beginning with the first playoff year in 2014.
BCS commissioners said last week they would consider adding a seventh bowl to the current six-bowl rotation.
It hasn't been determined how the $20 million would be split between the highest-ranked non-BCS school and a supposed runner-up from a major conference. What the commissioners are considering is essentially legitimizing the reconfigured Big East going forward with a bowl that sources say will be part of the national semifinal rotation as well.
On the one hand, the deal especially benefits the Big East because three times in the last six years Big East teams who would be in the league for 2014 would have played in that seventh bowl (Louisville, Cincinnati, Boise State). The last time a team from one of the current non-AQ conferences would have been in the game is Hawaii in 2007.
Now there will be at least one such team each year from a group of conferences that includes Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt, Big East and Mountain West, going forward beginning in 2014.
On the other hand, the Big East had already lost its automatic spot in the BCS worth $17 million per year when the five other BCS leagues contracted with existing bowls in the playoff. Instead, the Big East will be competing with four other non-AQ conferences for that automatic spot going forward, for less money.
All five power conferences would theoretically be interested in placing a team in the bowl. Rankings for the playoff bowls will be determined by an as-yet undetermined selection committee.
For the first time since the BCS drew an artificial line between college football's haves and have nots 14 years ago, the sport's second-class citizens would be guaranteed a spot in a major bowl. In the current BCS, non-AQ schools have to meet a standard -- top 12 or top 16 if ranked higher than a BCS league champion. When the playoff arrives, the highest ranked team from that so-called Group of Five (MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Big East) will be guaranteed a spot.
For example, if Marshall is highest ranked at No. 37, it will be in a playoff bowl. If a team from the Group of Five in the top four, it will play in a national semifinal.
One source said the idea is to structure the seventh bowl along the lines of the Orange Bowl with an anchor conference -- in this case conferences -- and a set of possible opponents on the other side.
It became evident those schools from the Group of Five deserved a guaranteed spot after access was all but limited to those five power conferences. Those conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big 12, ACC) changed the postseason structure when they contracting with bowls, essentially owning the games themselves. In a six-bowl rotation, 10 of the 12 spots could have been spoken for in certain years.
“I've been concerned about access all along,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “When the other side of the Orange Bowl got tied up, I think people thought that was going to be filled by the pool [from major conferences]. When that got filled I think it diminished the opportunities.”
A power conference school is still expected to play the Group of Five “champion” in the seventh bowl thereby adding even more to the big boys' take. The other side of the bowl could be populated by third- and fourth-place teams from the power conferences.
“I'd be willing to listen,” Bowlsby said of the Big 12.
The addition of a seventh bowl establishes a clear pecking order among the contract bowls going into the playoff in 2014. The Rose Bowl changed the landscape when it signed an unprecedented deal worth $80 million in each of the next 12 years with ESPN. The pending Champions Bowl deal (SEC-Big 12) is expected to be for the same amount. The Orange Bowl (ACC champ vs. Notre Dame/SEC/Big Ten) will be worth somewhere between $20 million-$60 million.
Still to be determined are the site of three other "access" -- or open -- bowls not contracted to particular conferences. The Fiesta Bowl is expected to be one of those. For example, in years when the Rose Bowl is a national semifinal, the Fiesta would like to be considered as a likely landing spot for the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions, if available outside of the four-team playoff.