One of the interesting issues to emerge from Big East Media Day was the concern over the conference's bowl affiliations. It's a valid discussion as your bowl affiliations reflect your value as a conference, justified or not. The SEC's #5 team will probably play on December 31st, if not January 1st. The Big East's #4 team plays in in Birmingham.
Here's the current set-up for the Big East.
BCS (champion), Gator/Sun (second selection), Sun/Meineke Car Care (third selection), Papajohns.com, St. Pete and International (fourth, fifth and sixth, depending). And the Motor City Bowl is available if the opportunity for a seventh time arises. Of course there are special circumstances each year that lead Big East teams to other bowls, like Rutgers going to the Texas Bowl or the Insight Bowl a few years back. But for the most part, that's the sched.
Now comes word that the Big East is ready to play hardball with the Gator Bowl. The Gator, along with the Sun, both want to be able to pick Notre Dame over the Big East team a certain amount of times. The Big East doesn't want anything to do with Notre Dame, or at least wants to be the favorable pick more often than not. There's a realistic chance the Gator walks away... I mean there's plenty of other conferences who would love a spot.
Also making news recently is that New York City Bowl idea from a few weeks back. When the whole Yankee Stadium deal went down, it was only a matter of time before someone talked bowl game. And it sounds like the Big East is going to lead the charge to make it happen.
Weather aside, it makes sense. If the Big East really wants to control the way it's postseason looks as much as possible, they're literally going to have to create their own opportunities. Look at the St. Pete Bowl...every year South Florida wins 6-8 games, that's where they'll be. And if not them, surely a Louisville or other Big East rival will take the space in a Big East-friendly market.
I'd call it the new way of thinking but I'm pretty sure it's been going on for a long time. As much as bowls are about sending your teams to new and interesting markets, it's also about making the games attractive to the locals and for the team you're sending. It sounds a whole lot better to go play in front of 20K of your fans than a place where only 5K show up, especially when we're talking third and fourth tier bowl games.
We'll see how things shake out but in the meantime, here's my personal breakdown for the best bowl alliances the Big East can have. The top stuff stays fairly the same, it's the 2nd tier stuff we can work on.
1st place - BCS Bowl. Duh.
2nd place - Gator Bowl. The Big East needs their #2 team to be playing on December 31st or January 1st in a respectable East-Coast bowl game. It's a status thing. It's an ego thing. We're a BCS conference, we need to be there.
3rd place - Sun Bowl. Great game for us in that it's in a fresh market (Texas), it's usually a match-up you'd never see elsewhere (Pac-10 team) and it's on or around December 31st.
4th place - Champ Sports. SU fans remember it as the last bowl game we played. It's never a good match-up from a record standpoint but it's always a good match-up from a name aspect. Almost always two quality programs who have stumbled a little bit. They probably wouldn't want to sub in a 4th place Big East team but the timing (12/27) and the location (Orlando) is prime. In years when the available team just doesn't have the cache the bowl is looking for, they can skip them.
5th/6th place - Meineke Car Care. The name is horrible but this bowl game packs it in every year. Would like to see a better opponent than the 6th best team from the ACC however.
6th/7th place - St Petersburg Bowl - a.k.a. South Florida's bowl game unless they win 8 games. Let's just hope they get a better sponsor than last year. MagicJack? Yikers.
6th/7th place - Big Apple Bowl (or whatever they're going to call it) - a.k.a. where Syracuse, UConn or Rutgers will play whenever they go 6-6. The weather would be atrocious but if there's some novelty there, at least at first. Plus it's NYC, there are worse markets than to hold a football game. Besides, they go to Giants and Jets games in miserable weather, it wouldn't stop them from going to a 6-6 Syracuse vs. 7-5 Maryland game at Yankee Stadium.