Big East commissioner says support for adding 7th bowl to playoff rotation has not waned

Published October 26, 2012

| Associated Press

Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco says support for adding a bowl game to college football's new postseason system has not waned.

Earlier this week, ESPN.com reported the chances of a seventh game being added to the playoff rotation that starts in 2014 had decreased because of various concerns, ranging from the value of the game's television rights to where it will be played.

The original playoff plan had the national semifinals rotating among six major bowl games. Last month, the conference commissioners discussed expanding to the pool to seven games to give better access to the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA , Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference.

"None of us had heard anything about the game being in any jeopardy," Aresco said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The proposed plan for a seventh game calls for the top-rated champion from the Big East and the other four conferences to play either a Pac-12 or a Big 12 team in years when that game is not hosting a semifinal.

Yet tepid interest in the game from possible television partners is a potential stumbling block. How much TV rights would be for such a game is uncertain. Speculation has been anywhere from $20 million per year to about $55 million.

"We're trying to put the game together," Aresco said. "We think there will be significant interest from TV entities, but it's premature. We haven't gone that far."

Aresco said the goal is to find a permanent home for the game. A site has not been determined but Aresco is confident a good one can be found.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said during a radio interview Thursday on the "Tim Brando Show" that a decision on adding a seventh game could be six to nine months away.

Aresco spearheaded the push for a seventh game because the Big East stands to benefit most from its addition. The Big East has had an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series since it was implemented in 1998. Now that the BCS is going away and the conference is losing some major players, the rebuilt Big East is trying to regain its standing in college football's hierarchy.

What used to be considered the Big Six conferences in major college football — the Big East, along with the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Pac-12, Big 12 and Atlantic Coast Conference — is now often being referred to as the Big Five.

Aresco and the Big East have been aggressively battling that perception.

"We know we're a very strong conference and I don't want a narrative like that to take hold," he said. "Because it's just wrong."

He pointed out that one prominent sports website's most recent conference rankings placed the Big East fifth.

"And I won't mention who we are ahead of," he said.

It was the ACC, which has an agreement to send its champion or another highly rated team to the Orange Bowl in the new postseason system.

Both the Big East and ACC have two teams ranked in the latest AP Top 25, though future Big East member Boise State is also in the rankings. The Big East's record against nonconference opponents from the FBS is 14-10 this season. The ACC's is 13-14.

But the Big East is in transition, and it is unclear how its latest incarnation will play out.

Pitt and Syracuse are leaving for the ACC. Boise State and San Diego State will become football only members in the Big East next season. Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU will join in all sports.

The new Big East will span all four time zones, and the quality of its football members could be at the very least on par with what it has been in recent years, before West Virginia left for ther Big 12.

Its long-term viability, however, is uncertain. The Big East has been negotiating with ESPN on a new TV deal, but if a deal is not struck by the end of the month, the conference will be free to negotiate with other networks.

"We've had several networks express interest in Big East product," Aresco said. "I can't speculate on what will happen in the next week or so."

The conference is hoping to land a long-term contract that will at least be in the ballpark of the multibillion dollar deals the other power conferences have signed in recent years. The ACC's new deal with the ESPN will allow the conference to pay its members about $17 million per year.

Aresco said the Big East also hopes to present a football divisional alignment to its members for approval next month. "We're leaning, more or less, toward an east-west structure," he said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be entirely east-west. We clearly want the western teams to be playing together."

Notre Dame, which competes in the Big East for everything but football and hockey, is also set to join the ACC. The school would like to move next year, but Big East bylaws require it wait until 2015.

Aresco and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbick have had preliminary discussion about a deal to let the Fighting Irish go early.

Aresco said the Big East would be interested in guaranteeing future football games for its members against Notre Dame if the Irish have room on their future schedules with five slots already taken by ACC schools.

"That's something we would certainly consider," Aresco said. "If Jack wanted to explore it we would certainly explore it. I don't know how much flexibility they have."

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

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