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Volume 24 No. 117

Colleges

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have announced a collaborative effort to enhance long-term scheduling commitments between the two conferences across all sports among the 24 institutions. The collaboration will feature more games between the two conferences. The objective for football is to create an annual 12-game inter-conference schedule between the two conferences by the '17 season. Many sports, including men's and women's basketball, could see an increased level of inter-conference competition in the near term, possibly as early as the '12-13 academic year (Big Ten/Pac-12). Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said, “This is not a five-year deal, a 10-year deal. It's an indefinite collaboration over time.” Univ. of Michigan AD Dave Brandon in an e-mail said, “The mechanics of this have not yet been worked out. Presumably, a lot of the coordination of scheduling will take place at the conference level.” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said that the new arrangement “could lead to common ties to one or more bowls.” Right now there are “none beyond” the Rose Bowl (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/29). Delany added, “This is going to be a lot of fun. The canvas is a blank canvas. Some areas are sacrosanct, like the Rose Bowl and the autonomy of each conference.” More Delany: “But this is two conferences liking what they have but being open to change. There is a lot of growth potential with very little downside.” Univ. of Nebraska AD Tom Osborne said, “With all the expansion talk, I don't think the Big Ten was looking to get real big real quick. So this is a way for the conference to expand its footprint without taking on a bunch of new schools” (OMAHA.com, 12/28).

REAPING BENEFITS: ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski noted the alliance “gives each conference marketing and recruiting entry into large population and media centers of the country.” It also provides “added content and product for the Big Ten Network as well as the soon-to-be-launched Pac-12 Network, which begins programming in August 2012.” Delany said, “Rather than go down the road of just trying to add members, we thought this was a way to keep who we were and an increased value for everybody. It doesn't mean you can't expand one day. It seems to us this is an intelligent way to get stronger and do so with zero collateral damage.'' Scott added, “It's a flexible approach to achieving some of the benefits of expansion without dealing with some of the other structural issues” (ESPN.com, 12/28). In L.A., Chris Dufresne notes plans include a “preseason game at the Rose Bowl, possibly as soon as 2013 or 2014, involving schools from each conference.” Scott said, “The Rose Bowl is interested, both conferences are interested. There are no details yet, but it's fair to say you'll see it in some form or faction." Delany also said that he would be “interested in a neutral-site game in the Midwest.” Delany: “Who knows. You could have the Rose Bowl one year and Soldier Field the next" (L.A. TIMES, 12/29). In N.Y., Pete Thamel notes other sports “are beginning to evaluate how the agreement can be used to benefit them.” In Olympic sports, Delany said that universities like Michigan or USC “could host a showcase track meet that would feature aspiring Olympians from both conferences.” Delany also said that the partnership in basketball “could help the sport open its season more definitively, the way Major League Baseball does with its opening day.” He suggested that the scheduling collaboration “could give the leagues a chance to have a strong start to the season, be it through an exempted event or by playing a marquee game in an NBA arena” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/29). USA TODAY’s Steve Wieberg notes both Delany and Scott said that they “had talked with TV partners ABC/ESPN and Fox.” They would “carry football and basketball;” other sports “would be on the Big Ten Network” and the future Pac-12 Network (USA TODAY, 12/29).

WHAT ABOUT THE IRISH?
YAHOO SPORTS’ Pat Forde noted Notre Dame has a "huge part" of its schedule invested in the Big Ten and Pac-12. If the leagues are going to add an annual game between members, “would that potentially squeeze Notre Dame out of the mix?” Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said that that is “not likely.” Swarbrick: “I don’t anticipate it having much of an impact. I was aware it was coming; they sort of kept us informed. I think it’s a great thing for the two conferences.” A more likely scenario than dropping Notre Dame “is a reduction in conference games from nine to eight.” Notre Dame “should be able to retain its rotation of marquee opponents, and it also should be able to keep most of its customary dates.” But Forde wrote, “Don’t look for the Irish to lose their annual Thanksgiving weekend game in California, against either USC or Stanford.” And the Big Ten opponents “probably will remain slotted in the earlier portion of the schedule.” Scheduling Notre Dame “continues to make sense for the leagues for two reasons: enhanced TV inventory and enhanced strength of schedule” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/28).

With 12 of 35 bowl games in the books, “one of the most common reactions has been ‘Where is everyone?’” according to Kevin Lyttle of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Ticket sales are “nearly on par with recent seasons, yet more ticketholders are coming dressed as empty seats.” Fans are “blaming the sluggish economy, glut of bowls and unattractive matchups.” Today's Notre Dame-Florida State Champs Sports Bowl “qualifies as the first sellout of the bowl season, and 65,000 fannies are expected to be in the seats.” Tonight's Baylor-Washington Valero Alamo Bowl “is close to being a sellout, and at least 63,000 should be on hand.” Monday's Missouri-North Carolina AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl had an announced crowd of 41,728, but the "actual number of bodies on hand was barely 20,000." Saturday's Southern Miss-Nevada Sheraton Hawaii Bowl reported “32,630 tickets sold; the head count was more like 10,000.” Not even the “big bowls are immune to the ticket-buying malaise.” Lyttle notes after tonight, the only “sure-fire sellouts the rest of the way are the Cotton, Rose and BCS championship game.” The Discover Orange Bowl has two teams that "travel well,'' but neither Clemson with 8,500 tickets sold nor West Virginia with 11,000 have “come close to selling the 17,500-ticket allotment.” Virginia Tech, a “controversial Sugar Bowl choice, has had soft sales of about 10,000 tickets.” TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl officials figured that Florida and Ohio State “would fill up their stadium, but neither school has sold its 12,500-ticket allotment.” Lyttle notes even Nebraska fans “have come up well short of reaching their Capital One Bowl guarantee of 11,000” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 12/29).

BOWL '11 GAME
ATTEN.
'10 GAME
ATTEN.
% +/-
Belk Bowl* N.C. State-Louisville
58,427
South Florida-
Clemson
41,112
42.1%
Bridgepoint
Education Holiday
Texas-California
56,313
Washington-
Nebraska
57,921
-2.8%
Little Caesars Pizza Purdue-
Western Michigan
46,177
FIU-Toledo
32,431
42.4%
R+L Carriers
New Orleans
Lousiana Lafayette-
San Diego State
42,841
Troy-Ohio
29,159
46.9%
AdvoCare V100
Independence
Missouri-North Carolina
41,728
Air Force-
Georgia Tech
39,362
6.0%
Maaco Bowl
Las Vegas
Boise State-
Arizona State
35,720
Boise State-Utah
41,923
-14.8%
Sheraton Hawaii Southern Miss-Nevada
32,630
Tulsa-Hawaii
41,089
-20.6%
Famous Idaho
Potato Bowl**
Ohio-Utah State
28,076
Northern Illinois-
Fresno State
25,449
10.3%
Gildan
New Mexico
Temple-Wyoming
25,762
BYU-UTEP
32,424
-20.5%
Military Bowl Toledo-Air Force
25,042
Maryland-East Carolina
38,062
-34.2%
S.D. County Credit
Union Poinsettia
TCU-Lousiana Tech
24,607
San Diego State-
Navy
48,049
-48.8%
Beef 'O' Brady's
St. Petersburg
Marshall-FIU
20,072
Louisville-
Southern Miss
20,017
0.3%
   
 

NOTES: * = Previously the Meineke Car Care Bowl. ** = Previously the Humanitarian Bowl.

NOT QUITE PACKING THEM IN: The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl's crowd of 56,313 marks the bowl’s lowest attendance since the Colorado State-Missouri matchup in ’97 (THE DAILY). Meanwhile, the Military Bowl's attendance of 25,042 was in part due to the matchup. Author John Feinstein said, “They were counting on Navy to be bowl-eligible and drawing the crowd. Navy was supposed to be the host team” (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 12/27)