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Thursday, May 23, 2013
More B1G, Pac-12 bowl pairings a plus

By Adam Rittenberg

Jim Delany chose his words carefully when the Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling alliance went kaput in July, but the Big Ten commissioner was ticked off.

He had gotten all his schools on board for a scheduling pact, which had been openly touted as an alternative to further expansion, that looked like a win for both sides, for TV, and especially for the fans. Ultimately, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott couldn't deliver the same united front, and the agreement blew up.

"We thought we had captured a really innovative, positive idea for fans, coaches, and players in both conferences," Delany told ESPN.com last summer. "It's very disappointing."

But disappointment didn't ultimately become bitterness, and Delany's statement announcing the end of the partnership ended with, "We look forward to continuing the historic partnership that we have with the Pac-12, and to working together on other matters in the future."

Fortunately, those matters include future bowl agreements. Although neither league has officially announced its new bowl lineup for the 2014-19 seasons, all signs point to the Big Ten and Pac-12 meeting more often in the postseason.

Multiple reports say the Big Ten will add a tie-in with the Holiday Bowl against the Pac-12. The Big Ten also could add the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to its lineup. The game's profile is on the rise as it moves to the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl currently features the Pac-12, and that won't change.

So there's a strong chance the Big Ten and the Pac-12 will meet three times in the postseason in most years. This is good for several reasons.

1. Every Rose has its thorn

The Rose Bowl is great, but as we've saw during the BCS era, the traditional matchup of Big Ten champ vs. Pac-12 champ takes place less and less frequently. Although Big Ten and Pac-12 teams have met in the game in six of the past seven seasons, the best teams from the leagues haven't always gone. Ohio State, undoubtedly the Big Ten's dominant program of the BCS era, has made only one Rose Bowl appearance (2010 game).

The Rose Bowl's role in the upcoming College Football Playoff likely will further decrease the number of "traditional" matchups in the game.

2. Conference commonality 

There's a reason the Big Ten and Pac-12 nearly pulled off the scheduling alliance. The two leagues are similar in many ways, from broad-based athletic programs to academically elite institutions. The SEC might be the Big Ten's biggest rival, but the leagues really don't share much in common. The Big Ten is much more like the Pac-12. They have a ton of history. It just makes sense for the Big Ten and Pac-12 to play more often in the postseason than just the Rose.

3. Variety

The Big Ten's current bowl lineup not only is overly difficult in my view, but it lacks variety. It's SEC, Big 12 and New Year's Day, that's it. Too much Florida and Texas. Not enough in other parts of the country.

The likely Pac-12 additions along with more games against the ACC (Pinstripe, new Detroit Lions bowl) provide a much-needed shakeup. Maybe this is the Californian in me, but would Big Ten fans rather travel to San Diego and San Francisco for bowls, or Jacksonville and Dallas? And that's not counting the large group of Big Ten fans who live on the West Coast.

The Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling alliance would have been great. It's a shame that things fell apart. The upside is Big Ten fans are getting more conference games and seemingly more appealing non-conference games.

Now they'll likely get more Pac-12 matchups in the postseason. Glad to see it.