With the six bowls sites for the upcoming College Football Playoff now settled, most major conferences are currently in negotiations to fill out their new "non-BCS" lineups for the 2014-19 seasons. Multiple industry sources said many agreements could be finalized later this week, with official announcements to follow in the first two weeks of June.
Due to the ripple effect of both the Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls moving up to the top tier of games and a larger shift in the conference-bowl dynamic, there will be many changes not only in partnerships, but in the way bowls and conferences do business and the way teams are selected/placed in bowls.
In an attempt to address so-called "bowl fatigue" (such as when a team plays in the state of Florida four times in five years), some conferences are shaking up their destinations. The Big Ten, for example, is adding bowls in New York and California. Meanwhile, the Big Ten, ACC and SEC are taking more control of the selection process. Rather than a traditional selection order (i.e. ACC No. 3, ACC No. 4, etc.), the leagues are grouping bowls into "pools" of three or four games with similar payouts. The goal is to produce matchups that are geographically sensible, avoid repeat trips by the same program and protect teams with impressive records from slipping farther down the lineup than deserved. Bowls within those pools may still pick in a predetermined order, but the conference will have final approval as to which team goes where.
Then there's the whole business aspect. Emboldened by the SEC-Big 12 "Champions Bowl" concept last year in which the conferences essentially took ownership of the matchup that eventually became the Sugar Bowl, many leagues are trying to establish similar agreements with their lower-tier games. They're demanding not only higher payouts, but also lower ticket guarantees (where schools eat the cost of their unsold allotments), and -- in some cases -- a share of the game's profits if it has a particularly good year. Some bowls can afford it; others can't. For example, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, which next year will move to the 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara, is moving up in the Pac-12's order and landing a Big Ten deal for the first time. Conversely, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (formerly the Insight Bowl), which the Fiesta Bowl long subsidized, is cutting its payouts considerably and thus will fall down the ladder.
Below is an early look at the major conferences' prospective lineups, based on multiple conversations with industry sources as well as other published reports. While almost nothing is finalized, the top seven or so spots for each league are "75 to 80 percent" done, according to one source. Bowls in the lowest tier, however, remain very much undecided (and are indicated as such).
Also, keep in mind that in the new system a league like the SEC might place as many as three or four combined teams in the playoff, its host Sugar Bowl and another top-six game. So while the Capital One Bowl is still listed as "SEC No. 2," in many years that team may actually be the league's No. 5 or No. 6. As a result, some conferences might not arrange as deep a lineup as they had in years past.
All deals will span six seasons (2014-19). In the following lists, each conference's contract bowl (i.e. Rose for the Big Ten and Pac-12) is marked as No. 1, but additional teams could reach the playoff or other top-six bowls.
3. Russell Athletic
6. Music City
1. Orange 2. Russell Athletic 3-5. Music City/Gator* 3-5. Belk 3-5. Pinstripe 6. Sun TBD: Detroit bowl TBD: Military? AdvoCare? Liberty?
Starting in 2014, ACC partial member Notre Dame will be eligible for any of the ACC's "non-BCS" bowl spots if it finishes the regular season within one win of the highest-available ACC team. All indications point to the Russell Athletic Bowl moving up a rung to take the Chick-fil-A's No. 2 spot in the ACC's lineup.
The league will also share spots in the Gator and Music City bowls with the Big Ten, with each league participating in each bowl three times in six years. The plan is for those two bowls, the Belk Bowl and the Pinstripe Bowl to comprise one pool. There may be a second pool, but beyond the Sun it's unclear which games -- and how many -- will partner with the ACC. ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported that the Detroit Lions are starting a new bowl that will replace the Little Caesars Bowl and pit the ACC against the Big Ten. The AdvoCare (formerly Independence) and Liberty bowls have also been mentioned as possibilities.
1. BCS 2. Capital One 3. Outback 4-5. Gator 4-5. Buffalo Wild Wings 6. Meineke Car Care of Texas 7. Heart of Dallas 8. Little Caesars
1. Rose* 2-4. Capital One 2-4. Outback 2-4. Holiday 5-7. Music City/Gator** 5-7. Kraft Fight Hunger 5-7. Pinstripe TBD: Detroit bowl TBD: Military? Heart of Dallas? Armed Forces?
The Big Ten's new lineup is the furthest along, and it's also the most different from its predecessor. In keeping with Jim Delany's pledge to go "national," the league is adding games in San Diego (Holiday), San Francisco (Kraft Fight Hunger), New York City (Pinstripe) and, three times in six years, Nashville (Music City). The Big Ten is set to part ways with the Buffalo Wild Wings and Meineke Car Care of Texas bowls.
Because it's expanding to 14 teams, the conference will likely go from eight partners to nine. The Big Ten's third pool would consist of the new Detroit bowl and one or two more from among the Military, Heart of Dallas and Armed Forces bowls. It's expected that at least one of the two Texas games will be among those included.
1. BCS 2. Cotton 3. Alamo 4. Buffalo Wild Wings 5. Holiday 6. Meineke Car Care of Texas 7. Pinstripe 8. Heart of Dallas
1. Sugar 2. Alamo 3. or 4. Russell Athletic 3. or 4. Meineke Car Care of Texas 5. Buffalo Wild Wings TBD: Liberty? Heart of Dallas? AdvoCare?
The Big 12's big changes consist of the Alamo Bowl moving up to the Cotton's former No. 2 spot and -- in keeping with the league's desire to get a Florida game -- the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando replacing the Holiday Bowl. It's unclear whether that game or the Meineke Car Care of Texas, formerly the league's No. 6 bowl, will get the No. 3 spot. Iowa State's highly successful trip to last year's Liberty Bowl has earned the Memphis game favor in discussions for the league's last two spots, which may also include Heart of Dallas and/or AdvoCare bowls.
1. BCS 2. Alamo 3. Holiday 4. Sun 5. MAACO Las Vegas 6. Kraft Fight Hunger 7. New Mexico
1. Rose 2. Alamo 3. Holiday 4. or 5. Kraft Fight Hunger 4. or 5. Sun 6. MAACO Las Vegas 7. Buffalo Wild Wings 8. New Mexico?
The only real changes here are the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl moving up one or two spots and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe joining the mix. It's unclear how deep the Pac-12's lineup will go and whether it will still include the New Mexico Bowl or another game.
1. BCS 2. Capital One 3-4. Outback 3-4. Cotton 5. Chick-fil-A 6. Gator 7. Music City 8-9. Liberty 8-9. BBVA Compass 10. Independence
1. Sugar* 2. Capital One 3-6. Outback 3-6. Gator 3-6. Belk 3-6. Music City TBD: Meineke Car Care of Texas TBD: Liberty? BBVA Compass? AdvoCare?
The pool concept is not unprecedented in the SEC, which has done something similar in the past for its lower-tier games. But its newest bowl pool could involve as many as four games. The Belk Bowl, which previously hosted the Big East opposite the ACC, is the one known newcomer to the SEC lineup, and the Houston-based Meineke Car Care Bowl is believed to be joining the group as well. After that the league is has talked with a slew of other bowls (Liberty, BBVA Compass, AdvoCare, etc.) for what will likely be two more spots.
1. MAACO Las Vegas 2. Poinsettia 3. Armed Forces 4. New Mexico 5. Hawaii
1. MAACO Las Vegas 2. Poinsettia TBD: New Mexico TBD: Famous Idaho Potato TBD: Hawaii TBD: Armed Forces?
With the addition of the Famous Idaho Potato (Boise) and Hawaii games, the league is set to have five bowls all played on its members' home fields. The now 12-team league is eyeing several possibilities for a sixth bowl with the incumbent Armed Forces Bowl presumed to be in the mix.
The American Athletic Conference, a.k.a. the former Big East, is largely in a holding pattern until the power-five leagues fill out their cards. Its current Nos. 2-4 bowls -- Russell Athletic, Belk and Pinstripe -- are all likely parting ways, but the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., remains a viable option. Elsewhere, the GoDaddy Bowl (note, it's no longer GoDaddy.com) has announced it will continue its MAC-Sun Belt relationship. Other mid-major bowl partnerships will start trickling out once the major conferences finalize their respective lineups.