- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Big Ten teams will be playing fewer bowl games in the future. And they'll likely be playing some of them in different locations.
It's all part of a shifting bowl landscape that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany discussed Tuesday at the league's spring meetings. Delany said there's a "very strong consensus" among the league's athletic directors that the bowl-eligibility requirement should increase from six wins to seven wins, a sentiment that's echoed nationally.
"We think it's better for our programs, better for our fans and better for the bowl system for us to have a winning season in order to qualify," Delany said. "... For us, it means redefining a successful year at 7-5 from the standpoint of a bowl season. We argued for 6-6. We've experienced 6-6. Now we're suggesting that it's in our best interest, the bowls' best interest as well as the other conferences that might benefit by these open slots to look at a 7-5 standard."
Teams that finished the regular season at 6-6 have been eligible for bowls the past six seasons. In 2006, the Big Ten sent two 6-6 teams (Minnesota and Iowa) to bowl games, and both lost. The Big Ten has had a total of seven 6-6 teams in bowls, including four last season (Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State and Northwestern). Only two Big Ten teams that finished 6-6 since 2006 -- Northwestern and Iowa in 2007 -- didn't make bowls.
Coaches like Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Purdue's Danny Hope oppose the increase from six to seven wins, but they're in the minority. Delany admits the increase "probably doesn't favor us," but he said it will help the health of the sport.
"We had one team in a bowl game last year at 6-7 [UCLA] that ended up at 6-8," he said. "... You got too much of a good thing, too much ice cream, too many bowl games, too many 6-6 seasons."
The Big Ten also could tweak its bowl lineup, which expires after the 2013 season. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he "would imagine it will change a little bit," and Delany suggested as much during his session with reporters. Although the bowl lineup has taken a backseat to playoff discussions and where the Rose Bowl fits in, it will garner more attention in the coming months.
Five of the Big Ten's seven non-BCS bowl partners -- Capital One, Outback, Gator, Meineke Car Care, TicketCity -- are located in two states (Florida and Texas). The three Florida bowls take place against SEC foes, while the Meineke Car Care and, in some years, the TicketCity, pit Big Ten teams against Big 12 opponents.
Translation: there's not much variety. Wisconsin played bowls in Orlando or Tampa in six consecutive years (2004-09); Michigan State has played in Orlando or Tampa in four of the past five seasons.
"When you have three bowls in Florida and you're a school that is constantly in that range for selection, your fan base could end up, in a five-year period, four times in the state of Florida," Delany said. "So does that depress the interest? Again, sometimes less is more. Is there a way to give them a taste of Florida and Phoenix and Texas and other places in California? We want to have the fan base excited about going, about who they're playing and about where they're playing.
"After 20 years of experience with bowls, how do we make the next round of bowls stimulating, interesting and responsive, not only to our coaches and our players but also our fan base."
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