- Brett McMurphy, College football reporter
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The Atlantic Coast Conference and the Discover Orange Bowl have finalized a 12-year deal placing the ACC champion annually in the bowl against either an SEC or Big Ten team, or Notre Dame, starting Jan. 1, 2015.
The agreement was announced Thursday. ESPN will pay an average of $55 million annually for the bowl, sources said.
The $55 million figure will be split evenly between the ACC and the SEC or Big Ten, depending on which conference is represented in the Orange Bowl. However, when Notre Dame plays in the bowl, the Fighting Irish will receive a "significant amount less" than the $27.5 million payout the SEC or Big Ten will get, sources said.
The selection of the ACC representative's opponent will be based on securing the highest-ranked team in the final standings available from either the Big Ten, the SEC or Notre Dame. However, the Big Ten and SEC teams must appear at least three times each during the 12-year life of the deal, while Notre Dame can appear in the game a maximum of only two times. There is no minimum number of requirements by Notre Dame.
The Orange Bowl is one of the six bowls in the rotation for the semifinals for college football's upcoming playoff, which will begin after the 2014 regular season. It is one of three contract bowls along with the Rose (Big Ten and Pac-12 champions) and Sugar (SEC and Big 12 champions). Each will be televised on ESPN.
In years when the ACC champion or another ACC team qualifies for the four-team national semifinals, then the next highest-ranked ACC team would play in the Orange Bowl.
The Orange Bowl will have the opportunity to take an SEC team that is not in the national semifinals or the Sugar Bowl, while the bowl could have a Big Ten team not in the semifinals or the Rose Bowl.
However, in the years the Rose and/or Sugar bowls host the national semifinals, the BCS commissioners have agreed that the Big Ten or SEC champion will not be placed in the Orange Bowl. Instead it will be placed in one of the three other access bowls. That decision was made to improve the value of the access bowls, sources told ESPN.
The ACC representative will play the highest available ranked team from Notre Dame, the SEC or the Big Ten. However, if the ACC's highest-ranked opponent would create a regular-season rematch, the Orange Bowl has the flexibility to avoid that rematch by taking the next highest-ranked team from Notre Dame, the SEC or Big Ten. The team that was "skipped" over would be placed in an access bowl as long as it meets the minimum ranking requirement.
When the Orange Bowl hosts the national semifinals, the ACC champion and the highest-ranked available team from Notre Dame, the Big Ten or the SEC will be placed in an access bowl instead.
Besides the Orange, Rose and Sugar, the remaining three access bowls, which will be part of the national semifinal rotation, still must be determined.
BCS executive director Bill Hancock said those bowls would be decided by next spring. However, sources told ESPN the leading candidates for them are the Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.), Cotton (Arlington, Texas) and Chick-fil-A (Atlanta).