A Rose (Bowl) By Any Other Name
By Paul Myerberg // May 19, 2012
A Rose Bowl by any other name would smell as sweet, said Shakespeare, who remains the only playwright to reference the changing landscape of college football in verse. The meaning of the quote: Names don’t matter. A rose is a rose; even by any other name it would smell as sweet. You can alter the name, tweak a label – say, remove the automatic or non-automatic qualifier tag, for example – but remember: A rose is just a rose. Nothing’s going to change. Nothing is ever going to change. And it works on the opposite end of the spectrum: You can call a pile of garbage a rose, but a pile of garbage is still a pile of garbage. You can put lipstick on the B.C.S., but the B.C.S. will remain the B.C.S., whether you like it or not.
The haves will still be the haves, but we won’t call them haves: we won’t use the term B.C.S. conference, or automatic qualifier, because the haves have decided to do away with the phrasing.
The have-nots will remain the have-nots. We won’t call them non-B.C.S. conference programs, or non-automatic qualifiers, but they’ll be have-nots. The velvet rope will remain in place. This room, the one reserved for the power conferences, remains off-limits. Remember: A rose is still a rose.
Let the christening of the new Rose Bowl – preliminary discussions had the game called the Champions Bowl – serve as evidence. The postseason event, which will begin in 2014, will pit the champions of the SEC and Big 12 on New Year’s Day, perhaps right after the Rose Bowl. If one of two conferences, or both conferences, send their champion to the four-team playoff, the second-place team will reach the game in their stead.
Those saying that this game already rivals the Rose Bowl for a national draw are slightly off-base: the game won’t touch the Rose Bowl in terms of prestige, and it’s due to prestige that we tune into Pasadena every January, not necessarily for the matchup the game itself presents.
But over time, perhaps, the Champions Bowl – or whatever name it goes by, whether it takes on a sponsor or remains unaffiliated – will hold a dear spot in our collective consciousness. One thing this game will have from the start, however, is a made-for-prime-time pairing.
It would have been Arkansas and Kansas State last winter. Not entirely eye-popping, no. But if the four-team playoff considers only conference champions, the bowl would have taken Alabama – which would have wiped the floor with Kansas State, but that’s another story altogether.
The bowl is evil in its simplicity. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 have the Rose Bowl. With the bowl system due for a major shakeup in 2014, the SEC knew it needed to create its own Rose Bowl-like postseason event. All the conference needed was a partner. The Big 12 was an easy pick.
I’d be remiss not to include the following buzz words: revenue, dollars, money, advertising, television, commercials, tie-ins, placement, revenue, money, money and money. Coffers will be filled. Seats may or may not be filled, but that’s not important.
Like the Big Ten and Pac-12, the SEC and Big 12 have joined forces to ensure their own post-B.C.S. survival. In doing so, it’s clear that the line of demarcation that separates the current B.C.S. and non-B.C.S. leagues will continue to exist in perpetuity. This bowl is for the SEC and Big 12 only; all other conferences need not apply.
Heck, this partnership spells trouble for the Big East and the A.C.C., two underachieving leagues that have undeservedly supped at the big-boy table of the B.C.S. since the system’s creation in 1996. With their four major conferences pals already locked into position, both the Big East and A.C.C. can only look to each other as future bowl partners. Neither likes what they see – the A.C.C. hates what it sees, as do its individual pieces, like a Florida State.
And it’s deadly for those teams currently outside the B.C.S. structure. If – and this isn’t such a big if – the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl become our de facto national semifinals in advance of a championship game, the chance that a current non-B.C.S. conference team factors into the national title conversation moves from slim to none – none, unequivocally.
Consider this scenario. A current non-B.C.S. conference team is ranked No. 4 heading into the Rose Bowl and Champions Bowl. Alabama, No. 5, beats Texas, No. 6, in the latter game. What’s the chance that the non-B.C.S. conference teams maintains its hold on a spot in the four-team playoff? Zero. None. No committee could save them. The committee would only ask that they not let the door him them on the way out.
Here’s another fear: This new partnership is just the first domino to fall. The chasm between the four new leaders – Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC – and the rest of the F.B.S. provides another impetus for Florida State and Boise State to bolt to the Big 12. The SEC moves to 16 teams, taking Clemson and Louisville; suspend your disbelief in this scenario.
The Pac-12 moves to 16 teams. The Big Ten adds Notre Dame Rutgers and others to get to 16 teams. The SEC is at 16. The Big 12 gets to 16 teams. These 64 teams become college football. The remaining 60 teams are filler, fluff. They become the new F.C.S. – the new have-nots, minus the playoff.
I know the Big 12 and the SEC aren’t knowingly putting this plan into action, and I realize that this is a nightmare scenario, not a likely scenario. But I worry about the future of this game should all of the power, not just most of the power, move firmly into the haves’ camp.
This is a crisis moment for college football. It’s also a look-in-the-mirror moment for those who dictate the game’s ebb and flow: either the power-brokers – a Mike Slive, a Jim Delany, a Larry Scott, a Bob Bowlsby – can cater to their constituents, like a politician aiming for reelection, or they can do what’s best for the game itself.
What’s best for college football is equality. Don’t be scared of that word: it doesn’t mean socialism, and it doesn’t necessarily mean parity. It means that deserving teams get what they deserve; it means that regardless of the size of your stadium, your career winning percentage, your TV contract or the name on the front of your jersey, you get a seat at the table.
The new system, when in place two years down the road, should ensure that each of every program in the F.B.S. can play for the national championship. It must, for the sake of college football itself. Anything less would be a continuation of our current, flawed system.
If the four power conferences continue to consolidate power, continually adding programs in an effort to reel in more and more revenue, the chance that a have-not can break into the title conversation all but disappears. Don’t call it relegation; that word implies movement. There will be no movement: no program will rise, and none will fall.
The powers that be are trying to convince us that things will change. They won’t, if the dominoes continue to fall. You can change a name, tweak a label – add a playoff, create a new bowl system, change a conference, draft a new postseason – but remember: a rose is still a rose. More than a label needs to change.
Tags: A.C.C., Alabama, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bob Bowlsby, College football playoff, Florida State, Jim Delany, Kansas State, Larry Scott, Mike Slive, Pac-12, Rose Bowl, SEC
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