The College Football Playoff is just around the corner and conferences from coast to coast are working to find strategies to bolster schedule strength and conference profile. Other than moving to nine-game conference schedules, conferences are looking to lock in future bowl partners. It is the closest we may get to free agency for conferences now that realignment seems to have been put on ice, unless we want to dive in to recruiting.
The Big Ten is among those conferences looking to secure future bowl partnerships to compliment deals in place with the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. While some may feel the game is worthless, the Pinstripe Bowl should now be a destination for the Big Ten and ACC every postseason.
The Pinstripe Bowl, played in not-so-historic Yankee Stadium, looks like an obvious choice for the Big Ten. It is played in cold weather, which the Big Ten should embrace. It is played in the New York market, which is certainly a factor with the addition of Rutgers in 2014. And it is played in Yankee Stadium, the symbol of royalty in baseball and the sporting world. Yankee Stadium is everything the Big Ten represents: Bigger is better, and richer.
Fortunately, it appears as though this bowl is gaining momentum to join the Big Ten line-up. But which conference will line up on the other side of the field on an annual basis? The Big 12 and the Big East have participated in the past three Pinstripe Bowls, with the Big East owning a possibly surprising 3-0 record. This may lead the Big 12 to get out of sending one of their teams in to the cold of the Bronx every December and maybe look for another bowl tie-in a little closer to home. Hey, trips to New York are nice but at what expense? Three straight losses to the conference that has been picked apart by national pundits on an annual basis for years as conference realignment tears it from limb to limb?
Speaking of which, would the Pinstripe Bowl have much interest in continuing their relationship with the Big East as they switch conference identity to The American. The American is losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh this season to the ACC, and Louisville will join them in 2014. Rutgers is joining the Big Ten at the same time. The American will be bringing in some new blood over the next couple of years to replace those departing members, but it will take time to rebuild any sense of a national brand the conference once had. I would suspect the Pinstripe Bowl will replace The American first, and the Big Ten should be at the top of the list.
If the Big 12 remains on the line-up, that would be fine. In fact, the Big 12 would probably be more inclined to stay on board with the Pinstripe Bowl if the Big Ten did replace The American. I am just going to guess the Big 12 will leave their spot vacant.
This is where the ACC needs to jump in.
The ACC has built a decent footing in the northeast. The additions of Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh have built a fortress of sorts around New York, and the Orange are on a mission to be recognized as New York’s college team. The class of the conference may remain in the south, but getting a chance to lock in a spot in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City seems like a great opportunity.
With no more Big Ten-ACC match-ups in the Champs Sports Bowl (now Russell Athletics Bowl), we are left without a pre-arranged postseason clash between the two conferences. That just does not seem appropriate. If the conferences were to be paired up again the Big Ten would have postseason match-ups against each of the power conferences in the postseason (Pac 12, SEC, Big 12, ACC). The ACC would just be missing out on the Pac 12 in an east coast vs. west coast battle. This needs to happen, and New York City offers the most ideal location for it to take place.
A partnership between the Big Ten, ACC and Pinstripe Bowl would open the doors for some interesting match-ups in my book. Penn State and Pittsburgh in a bowl game? The battle of New York City bragging rights between Syracuse and Rutgers? Even a down year in the conferences could offer us a match-up of Ohio State vs. Clemson.
Since its debut, the Pinstripe Bowl has had crowds between 38,000 and 39,000 each of the three years it has been held. Each game featured Syracuse (twice) or Rutgers (once), to get a bit of a home crowd factor. Those possibilities would still be there for the game by aligning with the Big Ten and ACC, and if they were to both meet in the same year it might get the crowd over 40,000.
Sure, these games could take place in other places, and it would be fascinating to see a regular season schedule agreement to compliment the conferences’ basketball series, and similar to what the Big Ten previously had arranged with the Pac 12. In fact, let’s take this a step further.
Get the Big Ten and ACC to set up a schedule agreement (and actually make it work) for conference-wide competition. Each conference will have 14 members in 2014 and there some great rivalries that could be rekindled or started up. Set aside a week of the season, perhaps in mid-September, solely for a football ACC-Big Ten Challenge and give each conference an even number of home games. Then play off of baseball’s idea and give the winning conference the home field advantage in the Pinstripe Bowl. In the result of a tie, a coin flip can determine who gets the home field advantage in the bowl game.
This may seem like a lot of work for a lower-tier bowl game played on a neutral field in the cold of the north, but I’m spit-balling here. Let’s roll with it.
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