BCS agrees to add fifth game
Published: Monday, March 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 29, 2004 at 11:24 p.m.
The Bowl Championship Series agreed to add a fifth game Sunday, increasing access for schools not part of college football's most lucrative postseason system.
The champions of the six BCS conferences _ the Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 _ will maintain automatic berths in one of the five games. The remaining four spots will be at-large berths to be decided by a complex formula using national rankings.
The fifth bowl is still subject to final approval based on market viability, but all indications point to it being in place when the new BCS contract takes effect before the 2006 season.
"This agreement is a significant victory for college sports and higher education," NCAA president Myles Brand said.
The current BCS bowls are the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange. One of those bowls pits the top two teams in the BCS standings in a championship game, which will be the Orange Bowl next season. The Rose, Fiesta and Sugar host the other games.
Oregon president Dave Frohnmayer, a member of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, said the fifth bowl would join in the title game rotation. He also said the Rose Bowl would retain its long-standing ties to the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions during years in which it does not host the title game. The other bowls also would have the chance to protect conference ties.
Frohnmayer said existing bowls probably will get the first shot at becoming the fifth BCS bowl. Cities expected to show immediate interest include Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Orlando and San Diego.
"We are envisioning a bowl of equal stature in terms of its command of television audiences and its desirability from a standpoint of teams," Frohnmayer said. "Whether that would come from the volunteering of an existing bowl system and its own structure or the creation of a new bowl, that's something we simply can't determine at this point."
Smaller schools complain that the BCS makes it impossible for them to win the national championship and puts them at a financial and recruiting disadvantage.
The BCS Presidential Oversight Committee and the Coalition for Athletics Reform, which has been fighting to change the current system, agreed to the changes after a six-hour meeting Sunday. It was third meeting in nine months of wrangling.
Tulane president Scott Cowen, the leader of the Coalition for Athletics Reform, said they agreed on access rules for non-BCS schools but refused to give details until after the new rules are presented to the conferences.
He said that using the new system, a non-BCS school would have played in a BCS bowl in four of the last six seasons. He declined to say which teams or which seasons.
"It's a significant improvement from where we are right now," Cowen said.
The committee and the BCS conceded that the new changes do not guarantee that a team from a non-BCS conference will play in one of the BCS bowls.
The BCS bowls generate more than $110 million a year for the big conferences. The BCS gives about $6 million a year to smaller conferences. Frohnmayer said those figures should increase under the new format.
"It's our hope that the interest in the series will be heightened by the availability of one more game," he said. "It's our hope that this whole new system will generate more revenue."
Since ABC owns the current television rights to BCS games, Frohnmayer said the network would get a chance to negotiate a new contract under the five-bowl format.
Negotiations with the bowls and TV networks begin soon, starting almost immediately with next year's Rose Bowl, putting some sense of urgency to the talks.
"Today is a very good day for college athletics," Cowen said. "This has been a difficult and contentious issue to deal with for the last nine months."
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