The Rose Bowl taking on non-BCS teams

Apparently, there’s a new clause in the Rose Bowl contract (rumored to have been forcibly added by ESPN for the next four year cycle) that stipulates the Rose Bowl MUST take a non-BCS school that has qualified for a BCS game if either the Big Ten champ or the Pac-10 champ is playing in the National Championship game.

As soon as this information was leaked, multiple websites started popping up with opinions on how the Boise State Broncos were going to fill that slot every year, or how Utah was going to run the table in the Mountain West and face USC.

Ah, but there’s problems with that thinking:

  1. The contract clause stipulates that the Rose Bowl must take the non-BCS school the FIRST time the Rose Bowl loses one of their main participants to the Nat’l Championship Game. It specifically states the FIRST time – not EVERY time. This means that a non-BCS school has one shot in the next four years.
  2. The contract clause ALSO stipulates that the non-BCS school must QUALIFY for the BCS – ie. they have to rank in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. So, if an 11-1 Boise State, Utah, or TCU team ends the season at #13, and USC or Ohio State is in the Nat’l Championship Game, too bad, the Rose Bowl can select any of the top 12 teams it wants to instead.
  3. Finally, the contract clause states that the Rose Bowl only has to select ONE non-BCS school. This is important, because there is always the chance that the Pac-10 and Big Ten teams could meet in the National Championship Game, and the Rose Bowl would have to select two teams to play. If the Bowl hasn’t already selected its one non-BCS school in any year prior of this current four year block, it will only have to select one non-BCS team. Again, that means that if Boise State and Utah both end in the top 12, the Rose Bowl gets to choose which of the two would play in it, AND it doesn’t necessarily mean the higher one of the two will play in it, only the one that will bring more fan base to Pasedena will get there (read: Utah).

There is something to be said here about this clause though – it’s an antitrust killer. No more can the non-BCS teams claim “less access” to the major bowls. But remember, the non-BCS teams already have access to the major bowls – they just have to qualify like the rest of the group by being in the top 12 at the end of the season. This clause just opens up one more major bowl to that non-BCS group, whereas before the non-BCS schools only had access to the Orange, the Sugar, and the Fiesta Bowls.

So all those Boise State, Utah, and TCU fans are getting their hopes up for a spot in the Grandaddy of the Them All, right?

Oh, but … wasn’t there something in the news recently about the Pac-10 possibly changing their scheduling? If it comes to fruition, wouldn’t that raise the rankings of all 10 Pac-10 teams headed into conference play? Why, yes, yes it would.

And if there’s only 12 spots at the top to qualify for BCS bowl games, if just two more Pac-10 teams ended up in the top 12, wouldn’t that push the non-BCS Boise States and Utahs out of the loop? Why, yes, yes it would, but ONLY if that non-BCS school had a loss. An undefeated non-BCS school is pretty much going to make it no matter what.

Let’s look at the past three years to see what would have happened:

2006:

  1. Ohio State
  2. Florida
  3. Michigan
  4. LSU
  5. USC
  6. Louisville
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Boise State
  9. Auburn
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Notre Dame
  12. Arkansas

The only non-BCS school was Boise State at 12-0. California was 18th at 8-3. A 9-2 record would have placed them somewhere between 10th and 14th, so Boise State would have been safe.

2007:

  1. Ohio State
  2. LSU
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. OKlahoma
  5. Georgia
  6. Missouri
  7. USC
  8. Kansas
  9. West Virginia
  10. Hawai’i
  11. Arizona State
  12. Florida

The only non-BCS school was Hawai’i at 12-0. Arizona State was #11 at 10-2. An 11-1 record would have easily moved them up to an 8th – 10th spot, but with Hawai’i undefeated, the lowest that Hawai’i would have dropped was to 12, and that’s still a guaranteed berth.

2008:

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Florida
  3. Texas
  4. Alabama
  5. USC
  6. Utah
  7. Texas Tech
  8. Penn State
  9. Boise State
  10. Ohio State
  11. TCU
  12. Cincinnati

Three non-BCS schools here, two of which are undefeated (Utah at #6, Boise State at #9). TCU ended up at #11. Oregon, ranked #17, was 9-3. A 10-2 record would have bounced TCU from the ranks, because Cincinnati was going to end up in the top 12, no matter what since they were the Big East champion at 11-2.

Now, that examination was just an eyeball test. A truer test would be to take the Pac-10 schedules for those years, remove the first Pac-10 game scheduled for each team and replace it with a team from the Sun Belt or Mid-American conference or a Div I-AA team. That means that 5 teams would have one less loss and would definitely increase their ranking going into conference play. The real test is when this actually takes place in the coming years. We will see the effect that scheduling has on the BCS rankings.

And that, ultimately, will affect the participation in the Rose Bowl.