Sugar Bowl looking to land new SEC-Big 12 bowl game

August 10 2012 | Latest News
The Allstate Sugar Bowl is apparently prepared to fight to retain its and New Orleans’ spot in college football’s new postseason hierarchy.

Sugar Bowl looking to land new SEC-Big 12 bowl game

Published: Tuesday, August 07, 2012

By Ted Lewis, The Times-Picayune

The Allstate Sugar Bowl is apparently prepared to fight to retain its and New Orleans’ spot in college football’s new postseason hierarchy.

sugat-bowl.jpgDavid Grunfeld / The Times-PicayuneThe Allstate Sugar Bowl is prepared to fight to retain its place in college football's new postseason heirarchy.

The bowl was one of 10 which recently received a request for proposal from the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12, setting up the bidding guidelines to be the host city for a new bowl that proposes to match the highest-ranked teams from the two conferences that are not in the four-team championship playoff that begins in 2014.

The new bowl, which had been called the Champions Bowl but which now will assume the name of whichever existing bowl lands it, would be played on prime time on New Year’s Day.

Every third year, the bowl would be one of the two playoff semifinals.

The new game is the SEC and Big 12’s effort to establish a Rose Bowl-type destination for its champions such as the Rose is for the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences, with an attendant $80 million annual TV payout the Rose recently received from ESPN.

The bidding process to be the site of the new game also will be more expensive than the bowls paid to be in the BCS, although the Sugar Bowl has been stockpiling its assets for just such a development.

And that doesn’t include bidding for the national championship game, which will be conducted separately.

“Obviously, we’re very interested,” Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan said. “But beyond that, we’re not in a position to discuss the matter.”

SEC and Big 12 officials also declined comment, but indications are the decision will be made before Sept. 1, when the conferences begin an exclusive negotiating period with ESPN. The proposals are due Aug. 22.

ESPN also reported that Dallas (Cotton Bowl), Atlanta (Chick-fil-A Bowl), Phoenix (Fiesta Bowl), Houston (Meineke Car Care Bowl), Orlando (Capitol One Bowl), San Antonio (Alamo Bowl), Nashville (Music City Bowl), Tampa (Outback Bowl) and Jacksonville (Gator Bowl) were the other cities receiving the request.

All of those bowls will be in the hunt for the Dec. 31 access bowls that will also have a spot in the semifinals rotation.

Miami’s Orange Bowl has lined up the ACC champion against an at-large team in a game to be played in the early afternoon of New Year’s Day.

The Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl are considered the top contenders for the new game, although Chick-Fil-A Bowl President Gary Stokan has made a public push to be included.

However, the Sugar Bowl’s history of being in the BCS rotation the past 14 years and before that being one of the traditional New Year’s Day games, plus its war chest of at least $35 million, likely will work heavily in its favor.

The Cotton Bowl also was a traditional New Year’s Day game before the BCS, and in recent years has increased its profile by moving to the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. The game has the strong backing of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The Birmingham News reported Tuesday that bidding cities can choose between a lump-sum guaranteed payout to the conferences or offer a minimum guarantee that includes a management fee.

In exchange for staging the game, the bowl would retain the ticket revenue, and the conferences get the TV money and title sponsor revenue.

If the Sugar Bowl loses out in bidding for the Champions Bowl, it is still expected to land one of the access games, which would pit two at-large teams in non-semifinal years.

The Sugar and Fiesta have first negotiating rights for those spots once the contract situation is settled, and at least not making the cut for that game is considered unthinkable by the Sugar Bowl.

Atlanta, Dallas and Orlando, which recently announced a $175 million renovation for the Citrus Bowl, are the other leading contenders, if they lose out to the Sugar Bowl for the SEC-Big 12 game.

BCS officials have indicated they prefer having two games in the Eastern time zone (Orange, Capitol One or Chick-fil-A), Central (Sugar and Cotton) and Mountain/Pacific (Rose and Fiesta), with one played in each zone each day.

When the new structure was first announced, Hoolahan had expressed doubts about the value of the Champions Bowl versus an access game, especially if it meant losing the Sugar Bowl’s identity. But with that issue settled, and considering the prestige of being the exclusive prime time game on Jan. 1, the Sugar Bowl’s traditional spot, the decision has been made to make a serious pursuit.

However, with the new playoff, the Champions Bowl is a likely misnomer, at least in the non-semifinal years. In the 14-year history of the BCS, there was never a time when both conference winners were outside the top four, and the SEC champion has won the past six national championship games.

However, the game would pair no worse than the No. 2 or 3 team in the SEC against the No. 2 or 3 team in the Big 12, which is similar to the current Cotton Bowl matchup. The Sugar Bowl would never be required to take a team from outside the current non-automatic qualifying conferences, as it has twice in the past five years.

“Everyone wants to go for the gold and have it all,” Hoolahan said when the new playoff plan was announced in June. “That’s not going to happen. You have to decide where you want to be.”

The BCS has said that bidding for the national championship games, which will take place after this season, will involve cities contending much as they do for the Final Four, with local organizing committees rather than the bowls in the forefront.

However, the bowls will be played in those years when a city plays host to the title game, as is done under the current double-hosting structure.

Hoolahan said he will do whatever it takes to obtain the title game as frequently as possible.


Ted Lewis can be reached at or 504.232.5071.

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