Cotton Bowl should go BCS or bust

March, 30, 2011
3/30/11
9:00
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The Cotton Bowl made a move out of its namesake two years ago in favor of The Spaceship in Arlington, Cowboys Stadium, which snatched the title of America's best stadium when it opened before the 2009 season.

The bowl's intentions were clear, but bowl chairman Tommy Bain made it official before this past season's Cotton Bowl, which served as a dry run for the Super Bowl a month later for Fox television.

"We're really preparing now for year 2012 to position ourselves to make a compelling argument that we should be in the mix at the top of the college football landscape," Bain told The Dallas Morning News.

That means BCS. The Cotton Bowl, once among college football's best bowls, slipped out of the elite rotation when the BCS was created in 1998. It needed a landscape change to make it happen, and adding a sixth BCS game could have potentially been a bit much for college football fans, stretching the definition of the "top of the college football landscape."

But on Tuesday, that landscape change came in the form of a jaw-dropping report from the Fiesta Bowl that led to CEO John Junker being fired and the Fiesta Bowl's status suddenly in flux.

"It is expected that all parties contracted with the BCS will live up to the highest standards. We do not wish to be associated with entities that believe otherwise," BCS director Bill Hancock said Tuesday.

Hancock also noted that there will be an investigation into the Fiesta Bowl's future as a member of the BCS, and that bowl officials had been notified to "demonstrate why it should remain a BCS game.”

"We're dead serious," Hancock told CBSSports.com after the comments were originally made.

Publicly, the Cotton Bowl played coy on Tuesday, making no public comments.

But if the Cotton Bowl is really, truly bent on busting into the BCS, the next few months should be filled with as much politicking as possible. It may not get another opportunity.

Though the bowl's status as an elite game on the field changed, its hospitality to players and media off it didn't. The Fiesta Bowl is on par with the Cotton in both areas, but besides its desert locale, doesn't offer much more. A Big 12 tie-in and a Dallas locale -- especially for a BCS game -- can almost guarantee big crowds. Texas A&M sold its allotment of 2,600 student tickets for this past season's game in 90 minutes. With the Big 12 Championship no longer being played, the Cotton Bowl can expect a similar veracity in terms of ticket sales when a Big 12 title means a trip to Dallas and a game inside Cowboys Stadium.

It's perhaps a bit poetic that the stadium that hosts the Fiesta Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., had its unofficial title as America's best stadium stripped by Jerry World and its gargantuan big screen that stretches between the 20-yard lines and broadcasts 70-foot-tall high-definition images.

There are hurdles, sure. ESPN owns the rights to all five BCS games through 2013 and the national championship through 2014, thanks to a separate deal with the Rose Bowl, which hosts the title game in 2014. The Cotton Bowl is contracted with Fox through 2014 and holds an SEC tie-in already, whereas the Big 12's BCS tie-in would simply hand off from the Fiesta to the Cotton.

But every TV network and conference has its price, and the bowl could earn that money back quickly if buying out of both meant a sure spot in the BCS National Championship Game rotation. Plus, that's three years. Usurping the Fiesta Bowl's spot would likely be for the foreseeable future. There's no doubt it's worth it, if only for the prestige, money aside.

Should the Fiesta Bowl lose its status, those two factors could push another bowl into the BCS slot and keep the Cotton Bowl where it is. But no bowl can match the current stage and history of the Cotton, which has been played annually since 1937.

The Cotton Bowl talked a big game this winter before hosting its second game and first ever in prime time, a game that moved from its usual Jan. 1 slot all the way to Jan. 7 this year. The innuendo and flirting reached a fever pitch.

But if the Cotton Bowl is truly serious about gunning for a BCS bid, now isn't the time for silence and diplomacy.

Now is the time for aggressive action.

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