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With VT's official entry into the ACC fast approaching (it's 13 days away and counting), let's take a look at the ACC's bowl tie-ins and assess candidates for new ACC tie-ins.
Here's the current list of ACC bowl tie-ins, given in the order they select ACC teams, and how much revenue they pay out to the conference (per-team payout):
That's a total of $20.175 million to $23.175 million, depending upon how much money is doled out by the BCS bowls.
Six bowl tie-ins is a lot for a nine-team conference, but it's not a lot for a 12-team conference. With the ACC taking on three more teams -- two in 2004 and one in 2005 -- you naturally wonder if more bowl tie-ins are going to follow.
In order for the conference to have the same per-team bowl income after going to 12 teams, the total bowl income must increase by 33%. For every three dollars made previously, four would need to be made in the future.
Using an easy-to-work-with figure of $20 million for ACC bowl revenue, which under the old 9-team format was worth about $2.2 million per team. To pull in the same revenue with 12 teams, the ACC would need $26.6 million in bowl revenue. That's an additional $6.6 million in bowl income.
There are two ways the ACC can get this additional revenue: (1) by sending a second team to the BCS, historically worth about $4.5 million a year; and (2) by increasing the number of bowl tie-ins.
Item #1 is out of the league's control and may or may not happen in any given year, so let's concentrate on item #2. To increase bowl tie-ins, let's assume the conference would have to steal bowl bids from another conference. Most bowl tie-ins are signed through 2005, I believe, and then they're up for renegotiation. What's out there that the ACC might take away from another conference?
Given that the ACC took teams from the Big East, it would logically follow that they might take bowl bids, too. The Big East is only affiliated with three non-BCS bowls: The Gator Bowl, the Insight Bowl, and the Continental Tire Bowl.
The ACC obviously won't take over the ACC's bids for the Gator and Continental Tire bowls, because the ACC already has bids to those games. And I doubt very seriously that the Insight is an attractive bowl to the conference, which already has a western bowl in the Humanitarian Bowl.
So we cast our glance towards eastern bowls that might be ripe for plucking. Without knowing anything about the status of the relationships between the bowls and the conferences they're currently tied into, we can take a look at some of the bowls that the ACC might be able to land a spot in.
Bowls With Per-Team Payouts of $1 Million or More
Bowls that are not likely candidates for ACC tie-ins, because they are too far west and have good tie-ins already:
Bowls that are possible candidates for ACC tie-ins:
Liberty Bowl (Memphis, $1.35 million, Mountain West champ versus Conference USA champ): This bowl matches up the champions of these two non-BCS leagues, but one wonders if the thought of an ACC team pitted against a C-USA team looks more attractive than a Mt. West team against C-USA. Or, with the defection of Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida to the Big East from Conference USA, one wonders how much longer a C-USA tie-in is going to look good to the Liberty.
Outback Bowl (Tampa, $2.75 million, Big Ten #3 versus SEC #3): The Outback gets to pick third in the Big Ten bowl rotation. The Outback and the Big Ten have a long-standing, successful relationship, but if the Outback were to ditch the Big Ten in favor of the ACC, the Outback would immediately become the second-highest paying ACC bowl, behind the BCS, and might get to pick as high as second in the ACC. That's intriguing. I don't see the Outback dropping either the Big Ten or the SEC, but you never know.
Capital One Bowl (Orlando, $5.1 million, Big Ten #2 versus SEC #2): On the surface, a bowl that pits the Big Ten #2 against the SEC #2 and pays out over $5 million per team wouldn't be a candidate for change. Something is obviously going right here and shouldn't be messed with. But if you look a little deeper, you find out that the Capital One Bowl is run by Florida Citrus Sports, which also runs the Tangerine Bowl that pits the ACC against the Big 12. Does that matter? Eh, probably not.
Bowls With Payouts of Less than $1 Million
There are a lot more candidates here to switch tie-ins to the ACC, but unfortunately, none of them pay big money. Oh, well, let's take a look anyway.
Bowls that are not likely candidates for ACC tie-ins, because they are too far west:
Bowls that are possible candidates for ACC tie-ins:
New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, $750k, Sun Belt versus C-USA): Most Sun Belt teams and C-USA teams are much closer to New Orleans than ACC teams, so this game probably won't switch. But New Orleans is enough of a destination city that even relatively far-away ACC fans might show up in droves.
GMAC Bowl (Mobile, $750k, MAC vs. WAC/C-USA): Mobile, Alabama is far away from most of the ACC, but so are the MAC and the WAC.
Motor City Bowl (Detroit, $800k, MAC versus Big Ten): With the geographic proximity of the MAC and the Big Ten, the Motor City Bowl is not likely to switch to the ACC.
Music City Bowl (Nashville, $950k, Big Ten versus SEC): The Big Ten is a long way away from Music City ... but most of the ACC isn't. Nashville is smack dab in ACC/SEC country. This seems like a natural fit.
If I were the ACC and I was looking to add one or two more bowls to my lineup of six bowls, I wouldn't mess with the Capital One Bowl. That bowl seems too well-established and rock-solid in its matchups and payouts to be likely to switch.
I would target the Liberty Bowl and the Music City Bowl. I would try to displace the WAC champion from the Liberty Bowl, creating an ACC matchup with the C-USA champion. Memphis is long drive for many of the ACC teams, but the Liberty Bowl's payout of $1.35 million is very attractive among the non-BCS bowls.
The Music City Bowl has been very successful in its short life and promises to be more so since shedding its Big East tie-in in 2002. I would try to displace the Big Ten from the MCB, creating a second ACC/SEC matchup (in addition to the Peach). The MCB isn't a rich bowl, but its payout is fast approaching $1 million, after being in existence just six years.
A third bowl I would target, though the chance of success is less likely, is the $2.75-million Outback Bowl. I would try to knock the Big Ten out of that bowl, creating an SEC/ACC matchup. I wouldn't recommend going after both the Outback and the Music City Bowl, because if successful, that would create three SEC/ACC matchups: the Peach, the Outback, and the Music City.
There's my take on the future of the ACC's bowl tie-ins. The
scenario could change, if the league drops a bowl tie-in (Humanitarian Bowl, anyone?), but that's how it stands for now.
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