The SEC and Big 12 today are announcing a partnership on a new postseason game. The champions of the two conferences will play each other if they don't end up in the four-team playoff, and if one or both do make the playoff, "another deserving team from the conference(s) would be selected for the game". This new bowl game will begin in 2014, the first year after the current BCS contract runs out, and it will go for at least five years.
There aren't too many specifics just yet, but this basically sounds like the SEC and Big 12 are trying to set up a better Rose Bowl-like game. They plan to play it in prime time on New Year's Day, but that's about it for details. The host site hasn't even been selected yet, but I'd bet the Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl committees will be very interested in bidding for it.
Here is Mike Slive's quote:
"A new January bowl tradition is born. This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience."
The big deal here is not necessarily the game but rather what the partnership represents.
First, it shows that the Big 12 is still one of the true power leagues. If it wasn't, the SEC would have no reason to make this kind of partnership. It also reflects the weakness of the ACC, because that conference would have been a natural fit for this kind of deal given the overlapping geographic footprint and shared history between some of the member schools. It also shows that the SEC and Big 12 were able to mend fences fairly quickly after Texas A&M and Missouri jumped from the latter to the former.
It also represents another step towards consolidation of power. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have partnerships through the Rose Bowl and their future scheduling agreement, and now the SEC and Big 12 have their shared postseason game as well. The Big East is already a faded star, and now the ACC looks like it's somewhat on the outside looking in.
Finally, it shows that there are going to be changes afoot within the bowl system outside of the playoff. The SEC champ will no longer be committed to the Sugar Bowl, and the Big 12 champ will no longer be committed to the Fiesta Bowl. I'm not sure how long the SEC's commitment to sending its top non-BCS team to the Capital One Bowl goes, or even in what specific way it might be affected by this new game, but its importance has just been downgraded.
In the video embedded above, Chuck Neinas floats the possibility of the leagues creating a new bowl themselves rather than have this new game be run by an existing bowl committee. He says that's not Plan A as of right now, but that kind of arrangement would be a huge deal as far as postseason economics go. Bowl committees have a pretty sweet system in place that lets them wring tons of money out of schools by requiring them to purchase large swaths of tickets at face value. Not being able to sell them all is a major way how most schools lose money on bowl games. Such an agreement wouldn't be in place if the conferences ran the bowl because there wouldn't be a third party (i.e. the bowl committee) looking to profit off of the game.
It won't be for some time that we'll know all the implications of this partnership, but for right now, it looks like the SEC has an official fighting partner going forward.
Steven Godfrey went back and figured out who would play in this game had it existed since 1996, the year the Big 12 was founded. There are a lot of great matchups there. It's one more reason to be excited about this arrangement.