- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Big Ten fans want more variety in the next bowl lineup, whether it's locations, opponents or dates of games. The league seems to agree.
The Holiday Bowl meets all the criteria. It adds a new postseason location for the Big Ten, and an extremely desirable one in San Diego. It would ensure the Big Ten plays another Pac-12 opponent -- the two kindred leagues currently are locked into just one bowl agreement, the Rose. And instead of adding to the glut of Jan. 1 Big Ten bowl games, the Holiday Bowl is played in late December, usually between Dec. 28-30 (last year's game took place Dec. 27).
The Big Ten-Holiday Bowl union makes sense. Don't be surprised if it happens for the next bowl cycle (2014-17 seasons).
"Oh yeah, there's interest," Holiday Bowl executive director Bruce Binkowski told ESPN.com. "Obviously, we're still tied in with the Big 12 and we're talking to them, but we're also interested in possibly tying in with the Big Ten. Everything's wide open right now."
The Holiday Bowl will keep its Pac-12 tie-in for the next cycle. The game has featured Pac-12 and Big 12 teams for the past 15 years. Nebraska's final two bowl games as a Big 12 member took place in the Holiday (2009 and 2010).
Although the Big 12 remains appealing, the Big Ten brings a new set of teams and massive fan bases willing to travel long distances to escape the winter freeze. The Holiday Bowl was among the dozen or so bowls that met with Big Ten officials last fall at league headquarters.
The Big Ten expects to complete its new bowl lineup by the end of the spring.
"They have such great Southern California alumni bases," Binkowski said of the Big Ten. "I can't speak for the newer Big Ten schools, but the older Big Ten schools have a great Southern California following. They're used to coming to Southern California with the Rose Bowl. We want to keep all of our options open, and the Big Ten is one of them."
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and others have talked a lot about the need to reshape the bowl business model, as attendance and interest in most bowls have declined. There's a push to create more flexibility during the selection process, both for the bowls and for the leagues, to create more appealing matchups.
One possibility for the Holiday Bowl is to have the Big Ten and Big 12 share a tie-in against the Pac-12.
"The fact we're talking about the possibility of a multiple tie-in, we think is good," Binkowski said. "I'm not going to say it's going to happen, but we like the fact there's variety. It gives you a chance for teams that you don't always get to see."
Binkowski noted that a bowl game's selection order likely will influence whether or not it wants shared tie-ins.
"If we were a higher pick, we may want to stay exactly [in the same place] with that conference," he said. "But if we weren't as high as we'd like to be, maybe multiple conferences would work out better for us. Do I think it's going to happen? I don't know. But the fact we're talking about it is a good thing."
Binkowski senses that the Big Ten wants another bowl tie-in with the Pac-12, whether it's in the Holiday Bowl or another game. Despite the short-lived scheduling partnership between the leagues, they remain very much aligned philosophically.
The Big Ten had a tie-in with the Holiday Bowl from 1986-94. Big Ten teams are 6-2-1 in the game (not counting Penn State's 1-0 mark as an independent and Nebraska's 2-1 mark as a Big 12 member). Notable games include Iowa's come-from-behind win against San Diego State in 1986, and Michigan's loss to BYU in 1984 that gave the Cougars the national championship that year.
As a longtime critic of the Big Ten's bowl lineup, I like the potential changes on the horizon: fewer Jan. 1 games, more flexibility with the Florida bowls, fewer lopsided matchups with the Big 12 (and, to a lesser extent, the SEC), the likely addition of the Pinstripe Bowl in New York.
The Holiday Bowl would be an excellent addition to the rotation.
San Diego. Late December. Pac-12 opponent. Sign me up.