The Big Ten announced on Monday at its preseason meetings that the five Coalition (non-BCS) conferences will finally have access to the Rose Bowl under the new BCS agreement which begins after the 2010 regular season.
Simply put, the first time in the new deal the Rose Bowl loses one of its designated champions (Big Ten, Pac-10) to the BCS championship game, the Rose Bowl must invite a Coalition conference champion if one has qualified for a BCS at-large spot. If this rule had been in effect last season and USC had played in the BCS championship game, the Rose Bowl would have been required to invite 12-0 Utah, the Mountain West champion, which qualified for a BCS at-large berth by finishing No. 6 in the final standings.
(If you’re an SEC or ACC fan and wondering why you should care about this, here’s why. Should you get a second team in the BCS on a year that this rule is enforced, it means your team would be locked out of Pasadena. But that’s another discussion for another time.)
This is a pretty big deal. A member of one of the five Coalition conferences (Conference USA, Mountain West, MAC, WAC, Sun Belt) has never played in the Rose Bowl, which has been a source of irritation among the other BCS Bowls (Sugar, Fiesta, Orange). Under the previous BCS agreements, the Rose had the right to pass on a Coalition team, which is why 9-3 Illinois took Ohio State’s place in Pasadena two years ago.
A couple of points on that announcement:
Not to be immodest, but we first reported this news on May 29. Here is the link:
Secondly, understand that the Big Ten and Pac-10 are not granting this access to the Rose out of the goodness of their hearts. Those conferences were told in no uncertain terms that the exclusion of the Coalition conferences by the Rose had to end in the new BCS deal in which ESPN will pay $125 million per year to televise the games.
It was also a way for the BCS to be able to say that it is continuing to expand access to the games, which is something you probably should do when you’re routinely getting hauled before Congress and asked to justify your existence.
Now the folks at the Mountain West Conference, who continue to push for a merit-based eight team playoff, probably looked at this news as another way that the BCS throws them a few more crumbs from the banquet table and hopes they will be satisfied. They won’t be. The next five years of the BCS are going to be filled with a lot of tension and discussion about access and money.
If the six equity conferences (ACC, SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 Pac-10) in the BCS are smart, the next thing they will do is allow the Coalition conferences to get two teams in the mix if they both finish in the Top 10 of the final BCS Standings. But while that looks fair on paper, there will be some pushback from the big conferences and the bowls. Had that rule been in place last season, when Utah (12-0) finished No. 6 and Boise State (12-0) finished No. 9, one of the big boys, probably No. 10 Ohio State (10-2, went to the Fiesta to play Texas), would have gotten left out. That would not make the bowls or the TV guys, who are paying the bills, very happy.