Smoke filled mistake
It looks like the ACC will take a bigger role next year in figuring out which school goes to which bowl. As Ian said earlier this week, it won’t make that much of a difference. Swofford is not going to bite the hand that feeds him. If a North Carolina team is available, they will go to the bowl in Charlotte. If Clemson is wanted by a bowl committee the Tigers will be there. This new backroom method will really be a game of musical chairs between BC, Georgia Tech and Virginia. The whole thing will still leave a good portion of ACC fans gripping about the bowls.
I’ve already made my case for the playoff system and my concept (11 conference winners, 5 at large, home games until the finals all played in December) is the longest of long shots. There are many reasons why it won’t happen, but some of the biggest reasons are that the major conferences don’t want a playoff. Yet the BCS conferences are not on the same level come bowl season. The Big Ten, Big XII, and SEC are filled with schools that travel well and have the best bowl associations. The Pac 10’s bowl deals are impacted by its geography and they are not in the mix with any bowl east of El Paso. The Big East is just happy to still have its Gator Bowl and BCS access. The new ACC doesn’t have enough second-tier agreement to satisfy its newer, deeper conference. Because of its need for new agreements and the lack of good destinations, the ACC should begin championing a playoff. It is going to take someone on the inside of the BCS to break it up. The SEC, Big Ten and Big XII would have to give up too much. The Pac 10 and Big East are constantly whining about lack of respect, so this would play to their desire to settle things on the field. But to really break up the BCS and move to a playoff, a conference with real TV power and 12 teams will have to take the lead. This is the ACC's chance to change college sports again.
What does the ACC have to lose? We never get two teams in the current BCS. We can’t get into a better bowl agreement with the second tier bowls. Half of our conference doesn’t travel well. All those things would become less important under a playoff. The ACC has nothing to lose, yet has the credibility that the Big East doesn’t have. The Pac 10 could get some attention, but they have been hesitant to embrace change.
If the conference doesn’t want to lead the charge on a playoff they need to do two things.
1. Create clear bowl criteria. I-AA wins should not count. Also throw in the caveat that a team cannot get selected for a better bowl ahead of a team that it trails by more than one game in the conference standings (that would have put NC State behind BC and Georgia Tech).
2. Create new bowls on the east coast. Ian mentioned Savannah or Charleston as destinations. Both offer a lot of appeal (I am not sure about stadiums). But the two most obvious choices are a game at Fedex Field and/or a game in Fenway. Fedex is a natural location with three conference members having huge alumni bases in the D.C. area. It also is more appealing to the rest of the conference than San Francisco or Boise. Sure it is bound to be cold, but not much colder than the aforementioned Boise.
Fenway is a tougher sell. It is really small and would be very cold. The reason I keep floating it as an idea is because I think the Red Sox would be willing (they are trying to break into college sports marketing and are willing to rent the park out for any other occasion), I think the novelty would generate some buzz, and I think this would be the perfect backup bowl for BC.
My playoffs are pipe dreams. The new bowls are more doable. But one thing is clear -- it is going to take more than backroom politics to make ACC fans happy about the football postseason.