Big East Bowl Tie-Ins
by Jared Barringer
TSL Extra, Issue #18

Jacksonville? Been there, done that. Two years in a row, in fact. Nice enough place, more fun the second time around. Letís not get carried away, however.

Phoenix? Never been there, never done that, would like to see the place at least once before death comes calling. Syracuse fans will tell Tech fans they should have seen it LAST YEAR but, hey, can Tech help it if its long history of supporting bowls works in its favor?

Those are two of the three places Big East teams know for sure they can head for bowls after the 2002 season. The other sure thing right now is a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) game, which means a trip for the league champion to Miami (well, Ft. Lauderdale), New Orleans, Tempe or Pasadena. Nothing lousy about any of those trips.

But what about beyond those three? Are Big East teams in "bowl trouble" for 2002, considering the league at press time didnít have any others locked in?

Not necessarily. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese is confident his teams will have places to play if they get bowl eligible. The league lost its tie-ins with the Music City Bowl and the Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl, eliminating two bowls relatively close to the Big East schools.

"We have our annual meeting in mid-May," Tranghese said. "One way or another weíll know where we are. Bowls are important to our schools. This is all about opportunity and recruiting."

Bowls are indeed important to schools. Ask anyone at Virginia Tech, which has a streak of nine straight bowl appearances, if all that postseason success hasnít changed things in Blacksburg. If youíre unsure, check an aerial shot of facilities then and facilities now. Bowl revenue, plus increased revenue from the support of a quality football team, makes a large and very noticeable difference.

Basketball coaches get judged on whether they make it to the NCAA tournament. Football coaches get judged on bowl appearances. Paid, too. Most contracts include hefty bowl bonuses and Frank Beamerís is no exception. He stands to gain an extra $200,000 if Tech gets into a BCS game.

A vote in late April has a chance of altering the bowl scene dramatically. NCAA presidents will vote whether to lift a moratorium on the number of bowls that can be in business.

Most think the moratorium will be lifted. It is not certain.

"It is a hot debate and a couple of presidents want to go to war with this," Tranghese said. "For a variety of reasons, some people have felt there should be a limit on the number of bowls. Those in conferences donít think there should be a moratorium."

Tranghese couldnít discuss ongoing negotiations, but if the moratorium is lifted, the Big East figures to have five tie-ins again very quickly.

Numerous sources said the league will enter into deals with bowls in Charlotte and San Francisco. That will give the league two bowls in the east, two bowls out west and one BCS bowl.

For obvious reasons, a league likes to have its teams play in bowls that are as close to the leagueís geographic region as possible. Getting to Jacksonville, for instance, is easier for Tech fans than getting to Phoenix. Getting to Charlotte will be easy for any team in the league. Some fans will travel anywhere, but more fans will travel if driving is an option.

San Francisco isnít a driving option for any team in the Big East, but the area is enough of a tourist attraction to draw more fans than would fly, say, to Boise, Idaho.

If the moratorium isnít lifted, things are much more complicated.

Six bowls are competing for one vacancy on the current bowl schedule. All signs point to Charlotte being approved to take that spot, which would be very, very good for the Big East.

That doesnít mean the league would be stuck at four. Several bowls operate without tie-ins so they can take whatever available team they want for their game. In theory, if all the Big East teams manage to get bowl eligible, they can all find a place to play.

But lifting the moratorium sure would make some folks breathe easier.

Bowl tie-ins are relatively new. Not that long ago, only a few bowls had specific tie-ins. The Rose Bowl, for instance, would match the Big Ten and Pac 10 champion.

"It was chaotic then," Tranghese said. "People were making deals on the first weekend of October. You were getting some wrong teams in the wrong bowls."

The current system allows for assurances but also eliminates some variety. Thatís how Tech ended up in the Gator Bowl two straight years. If you donít get into a BCS game, the Gator Bowl is a very good option, but how many years can a team go to the same bowl before its fans get tired of the area?

Coaches have their eye on the bowl scene. They like to know what theyíre playing for before the season begins.

"Our league feels very assured theyíre going to have five bowl ties-in, at least," Tech Coach Frank Beamer said. "I donít think thereís any question about that."



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