Here in Big Ten country, we've grown up believing that the Rose Bowl is different from all other bowls. It's special. It's in a class of its own.
There's no shortage of reasons why: longevity, history, tradition, pageantry. Heisman Trophy winners and Hall of Fame coaches. Unforgettable plays and finishes.
Or, you can simply watch the sun set over the San Gabriel Mountains during the second half of a Rose Bowl game. That's all the evidence I need.
The Rose Bowl also has stood out from the other bowls because of its ties to both the Big Ten and the Pac-10. The relationships with the bowl tick off fans from other parts of the country as well as some media members, but they're treasured by the two leagues.
As the 2010 football season dawns, it's important to remind everyone that access to the Rose Bowl is changing during the next BCS cycle (2010-2013 seasons). Beginning this fall, the first time the Rose Bowl loses the Big Ten champ or Pac-10 champ to the BCS title game, it must take a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference if that team earns a BCS berth. This can only happen once during the BCS cycle, but it's likely.
Ready for TCU-Iowa in the Granddaddy? What about Boise State-Oregon State?
"The commissioners felt like if the other bowls are in position every year to have non-AQ team, the Rose Bowl should be in a similar position," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. "The Big Ten, Rose Bowl and Pac-10 agreed, ‘We need to share.'"
Sharing the Rose Bowl? Somewhere, Bo and Woody might be shaking their heads. But that's the way it goes these days.
Scott McKibben hadn't taken his post as executive director of the Tournament of Roses committee when the access change took place, but he backs the new policy.
"If we believe in the bowl system and the BCS and where that all is headed for our future, we really felt like we needed to participate in that also," McKibben told me this week. "It allows an opportunity for a team that might not in a typical year [be selected] to come to the Rose Bowl. Our feeling is, ‘Hey, if it’s good for college football and good for the bowl system, we certainly want to support it.'"
Was there any resistance, specifically from the Big Ten?
Hancock never saw any in a public forum. McKibben said commissioners Jim Delany (Big Ten) or Larry Scott (Pac-10) haven't brought up the access change during McKibben's nine months on the job.
We might only find out how the leagues really feel the first time a non-BCS team heads to Pasadena. This much seems clear: the days of the Big Ten nudging a 9-3 Illinois team ranked 13th in the final BCS standings toward Pasadena might be over.
At least for this BCS cycle.
“College football is an ongoing evaluation process, as we learned," McKibben said. "Do I feel this is probably something that will go on into the future? I would say yes. But do we know for sure? No. We’ll know more after we finish the [current] cycle and we sit in a room and talk about it."