CHICAGO — The days of Big Ten football teams going to the same bowl in back-to-back years or even the same state for a bowl two or three straight years apparently are over.
Commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday the conference will work more directly with bowl partners when new contracts start next year to create “fresher” matchups for schools, players and fans.
The national postseason model to this point beyond BCS bowls, he said, has “pretty much been pure selection” by the bowls in picking schools.
Now, expect more conference involvement in creating pools of teams available to multiple bowls.
“In our case, we’ll probably be somewhere in between pure selection and a conference placement,” Delany said. “We’ll give a lot of conditions to each bowl and they will have to get conference approval for the selection they choose.”
What's an example?
“In a six-year period, we want you to take five different teams,” Delany said. “That will assist in making sure of diversity.”
The goal, he said, is to keep fan bases engaged and help bowls create the best possible matchups.
“You can’t think that fans are going to be interested in going to the same region over and over and over again,” Delany said. “So I think our fans, coaches and players are in for a treat.”
Final announcements are probably a week away on new or renewed Big Ten bowl tie-ins — there currently are eight — and other details.
Speculation is strong that the league could have new deals in New York (Pinstripe Bowl), San Diego (Holiday) and Nashville (Music City), while perhaps dropping a tie-in in Houston (Meineke Car Care).
“There will be some places we won’t return to,” Delany said. “There will be some new venues. And there will be some places we’ll be returning to.”
The key, Delany said, was to design “a truly national slate.”
“It plays to warm weather for the most part, but not exclusively,” he said. “It plays to where our alumni live and where our recruitment occurs.”
Big Ten schools don’t mind going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., every year. That’s the automatic spot for the league champion.
But situations such as Wisconsin going to central Florida five straight seasons or Ohio State to Arizona three out of four years or Nebraska to the Capital One Bowl in consecutive years had become an issue.
“We needed to recognize there’s some bowl fatigue,” Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said. “The attendance numbers are pretty straightforward. They were down.
“So we needed some creativity. Now, we can assign. Multiple teams going to the same site back to back is not healthy for the bowls, not healthy for the kids and not healthy for the fans.”
Fan bases will have to be educated on the new procedures and why a school with a lesser record might get sent to a perceived better bowl.
“Everybody loves a pecking order,” Michigan State A.D. Mark Hollis said. “But we’re in a process now of taking our teams and fans to a variety of communities.”
Hollis, a self-described “Disney freak,” said he would be happy personally with regular trips to Orlando. But he knows it’s not the best thing for fans or players.
“When you go to the same place a few years in a row, fans no longer see it as something special,” he said. “If you can hop from San Diego to central Florida to Texas, you create a better experience.”
Another part of the bowl discussion was reducing the ticket allotments that schools are required to accept.
Trying to sell tickets at full price when better seats at cheaper prices may be available on secondary markets has angered donors and led to money-losing trips.
“Some of the allotments are higher than they need to be,” Smith said. “We’ve been able to reduce some of those.”
The bowls have been helpful in seeing the need to alter the allotment process.
“Once you get past the top-tier bowls, everyone recognizes we need to do something different,” Smith said. “So we didn’t get much push-back on that.”
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