Big 12, SEC strike up bowl deal

Two of college football’s heavyweight conferences will soon be hooking up on an annual basis.

The Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences on Friday announced a five-year agreement that will match the champions from each league in an annual postseason bowl game beginning after the 2014 season.

The new agreement will not affect the likely four-team playoff that will potentially begin the same season. If the champion from one or both leagues qualifies for the playoff, the leagues announced, then the next team in line will replace the champion in the bowl game.

The specifics for the game are still being ironed out, but the following ideas are being discussed. The game will likely be played in primetime on Jan. 1, with the site being determined by a bid process. For now, it appears likely that Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be strongly considered. In addition, revenues from the game will be split equally between the Big 12 and SEC.

“Our goal is to provide the fans across the country with a New Year’s Day prime-time tradition,” acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said. “This is a landmark agreement between two of the most successful football conferences during the BCS era to stage a postseason event.

“The creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football.”

In many ways, the game will act as the Big 12’s and SEC’s answer to the Rose Bowl, which pits the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-12. And while it remains likely that one or both champions of the Big 12 and SEC will qualify for the four-team playoff each year, the new bowl agreement does guarantee a high-profile landing spot for the top teams that are left out of the playoff.

Missouri, for example, likely would have been the Big 12’s representative under this structure for the 2008 season, when the Tigers lost the conference title game to Oklahoma. The Sooners played for the BCS title that season, losing to Florida. For the 2003 season, Kansas State would have played in the game after upsetting Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. The Sooners advanced to the BCS title game that season, losing to LSU.

“A new January bowl tradition is born,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “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.”

Recent history suggests the Big 12 and SEC will have no problem putting teams in the playoff. The leagues have dominated the college football landscape during the BCS era, combining for 16 appearances in the BCS National Championship Game; the SEC leads with nine appearances while Big 12 teams have made seven trips to the title game. The Big 12 and SEC have met head-to-head in the BCS title game three times since 1998 with the SEC winning all three matchups: LSU over Oklahoma in 2003, Florida over Oklahoma in 2008 and Alabama over Texas in 2009.

“We’re very excited about this announcement, and what it means for both conferences going forward,” MU athletic director Mike Alden said in a statement. “We feel that this sets both leagues up for good things within the future postseason structure, and that it will be positive for college football and our great fans.”

For some, the game also signals the growing stability of the Big 12, a conference wounded by the departure of four schools — including Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC — during the past two years.

“This agreement,” KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said, “reinforces that the Big 12 is exactly what we’ve been saying for some time — a strong, stable, vibrant conference that is at the forefront of intercollegiate athletics.”

Kansas State officials said the same.

“Today’s announcement is yet another validation of the Big 12’s accelerating forward trajectory as a leadership conference in college athletics,” K-State athletic director John Currie said.