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Which conference has the best bowl ties?

12/20/2011

'Tis the season to evaluate conference bowl tie-ins. Of course, many of you have been asking about them for the better part of the season, mostly because you were shaking your fists at Notre Dame.

So where exactly does the Big East rank among all conferences when it comes to the level and quality of its tie-ins? Ryan McGee of ESPN The Magazine did his own evaluation, and I am sure it comes as no surprise to see the Big East come in No. 6 — last among all automatic qualifying conferences.

The Big East has six guaranteed tie-ins but only two January games among them. This year is slightly different because the Big East sent a team to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl rather than the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. And it took a big hit when it lost the Champs Sports Bowl to Notre Dame. That game has the first pick after the BCS, but a provision allows Notre Dame to be selected once in a four-year period if the Irish are 7-5 or better.

McGee writes: "If the bowl fall-off for the Pac-12 is a canyon, then for the Big East it's a black hole."

Ouch.

The fact is the league has the fewest tie-ins because it is the smallest conference, and it does not have options as appealing because it does not have the drawing power of a team from, say the SEC. Then there is the whole "respect" card that we have talked about endlessly.

The Champs Sports Bowl is a step up, and the Big East would not have been able to get it without involving Notre Dame. It is better than the old bowl arrangement, which involved the Gator and Sun Bowls, Notre Dame and the Big 12. The International Bowl never fit, either, and now it no longer exists.

Are these the perfect tie-ins? None of them ever are, because so many factors are involved. What will be interesting to see is how they change once this contract ends after the 2013 season. With the newly-configured league, there probably will be at least another tie-in beyond the East Coast.