LITTLE ROCK — Once the Southeastern Conference’s new bowl partners are in place, the SEC will have more control of the selection process and the bowls will have more cash.
To get a picture of the SEC’s bowl ties after the 2014 season, swap Charlotte, N.C., for Atlanta and Houston for Arlington, Texas. The Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Cotton Bowl are moving into the upper echelon, joining the Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, and Orange in the College Football Playoff.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive says the conference wants to determine which teams go to which bowls, but he left open the door that the Capital One Bowl with the largest payout ouside the BCS games would be treated differently.
Prior to the recent SEC meetings, there was word that the league’s new agreement would be revenue-friendly for the bowls. For starters, the bowls will reduce their guarantees to SEC teams. This year, the games in Houston and Charlotte guarantee $1.7 million per team while payouts from cities that will continue their ties with the SEC include:
—Tampa, $3.5 million.
—Jacksonville, Fla., $2.725 million.
—Shreveport, $1.150 million.
Keeping another $100,000 or so could make a huge difference in a a bowl’s bottom line without having much effect on the amount disbursed to each of the 14 schools from the pool of bowl money. Keep in mind that participating schools get a predetermined amount, not the entire payout.
Effective Aug. 1, bowl participants will get an additional $50,000 from the SEC. For teams playing in bowls that pay less than $1.5 million, the check will be $975,000. For those in the next tier, the check will be $1.175 million. Other than the BCS games, the Capital One is the only bowl with a payout above $4 million and the SEC participant will get $1.375 million.
Even if eight bowls retained an extra $125,000 each, the $1 million total divided 15 ways is a drop in the bucket in light of the $20.7 million the SEC recently handed each school and the fact that there will be more money when the SEC Network cranks up in 2014.
The bowls tied to the SEC are expected to lower the number of tickets that must be guaranteed by a participating school, but that could improve a bowl’s balance sheet in the long run if the SEC agrees to purchase all unsold tickets. Currently, the SEC pays for up to 3,000 unsold tickets when the guarantee is less than 15,000 tickets and buys up to 4,000 when the guarantee is more than 15,000 tickets.
Whether or not the SEC will have an insurance policy for tickets is up in the air.
Getting a handle on bowl partners needed by the SEC is impossible. There will be years when the league could have two of the four semifinalists and agreements with the Sugar and Orange are in play.
Paired with the Rose, the Sugar will host College Football Playoff semifinals in January 2015, 2018, 2021, and 2024. In other years, the Sugar will get the highest ranked SEC team not in the CFP. On top of that, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Orange have a deal that says beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the SEC must appear at least three times during the 12-year contract.
Once the SEC takes control of placing teams in the lesser bowls, there should be more opportunity for Western Division teams to play in Florida. Currently, after the Capital One, the Cotton has first preference of teams from the Western Division and the Outback has first preference from the Eastern Division. Other than Auburn following the 2009 season, no Western Division team has played in the Outback in Tampa since Alabama after the 1996 season.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.