This isn't any breaking news, but I thought our readers might enjoy the speculation on the SEC's possible new bowl tie-ins for the next six years. Bowls are currently negotiating a six year cycle of conference tie-ins in the shadow of the new playoff structure. The SEC is losing two tie-ins, the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl and the AT&T Cotton Bowl, to the new playoff structure. Those two will need to be replaced.
The current speculation is that the SEC will replace the Chick-fil-a Bowl with the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, presumably against an ACC team. The Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston would replace the Cotton. These bowls would give SEC fans two new destinations in or within driving distance of the conference footprint, a feature of the bowl lineup that the conference wants to maintain.
A couple of destinations aren't the only things that will change. It looks like the selection process will start with the Capital One, but after that pick, the conference will control most, if not all, of the remaining selections. This means the bowls won't necessarily be slotted in any defined order. Instead, the conference will dictate which teams end up in which bowls. This is an attempt to fit teams into bowls that make geographic (and economic) sense for the team's fanbase. There are also rumors that there will be an upper group of bowls and a lower group. Better teams would go to the upper group, while the six and seven win teams would go to the lower group.
All of that makes sound business sense. The bowls have historically had the power regarding team selection and ticket requirements (each team is required to buy a certain number of bowl tickets) through their contracts with conferences. During this cycle, the conferences, especially the SEC, seem to understand that they are the ones with the superior bargaining power. Thus, the SEC is trying to dictate team selection and reduce their member institution's costs by lower the ticket requirements. I expect the SEC to get its way.
Another thing that some conferences are playing with is the idea of shared picks. So, if a bowl contracts with the Big 12, the bowl and the Big 12 might negotiate to swap that pick with the Pac 12 in three years of the six year contract. I don't expect the SEC to participate because their teams are so in demand, they don't have to share.
So, if we lose Atlanta and Dallas, are Charlotte and Houston acceptable replacements? The conference says they want to avoid bowl fatigue, but if we just reshuffle the order of the existing bowl partners how can you avoid it? Will we get an SEC - Pac 12 bowl match up anywhere? Will the conference want to continue to partner with three Florida bowls that have historically had overlapping TV broadcasts?
The conference negotiations are underway now. Word is that most conferences want their new bowl contracts closed before the start of the season, so we should know some details soon.