"If the Big 12 isn't around next year, I can sum up the bowl system in one word: chaos," a college football industry source told CBSSports.com.
The Fiesta Bowl gets the Big 12 champion, if it doesn’t finish among the top two in the final BCS standings, as its "anchor" team. However without a Big 12 Conference, the Fiesta would be left to choose two at-large teams.
But it wouldn't be that simple. A major question would be when would the Fiesta Bowl get its first pick of at-large teams? The BCS by-laws are currently set up so that the five bowls – BCS, Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar – have a set rotation each year to fill their bowls. Without a Big 12 champion would the Fiesta Bowl get the first at-large pick overall or have to wait until the last pick?
Bowl sources said that could be a major issue since the BCS certainly couldn’t have predicted the Big 12 might not be around when the current BCS contract expires after the January 2014 games.
“We’re in close contact with our partners and are monitoring developments,” a Fiesta Bowl spokesperson said Wednesday. “We are not going to speculate on rumors related to the Big 12 Conference or anyone else for that matter.”
BCS executive director Bill Hancock also said Wednesday he does not discuss hypothetical situations.
Also, the BCS bowls can only take two teams from a conference, so that would increase the chances for non-AQ conference teams, such as Boise State, to secure an at-large BCS bowl bid.A bigger – and more complex – issue that would impact one-fifth of the bowls would be what does the bowls with Big 12 tie-ins do for teams if there is no Big 12?
Besides the Fiesta, the Big 12 bowl lineup is Cotton, Alamo, Insight, Holiday, Texas and Pinstripe.
So the Cotton, instead of pairing the No. 2 team from the Big 12 against the No. 3 pick from the SEC, would have to wait until all of the other remaining bowls with existing contracts with the other 10 conferences choose their teams before it could fill that spot.
“What do you think will happen when [SEC commissioner] Mike Slive’s third-place team doesn’t have a quality opponent,” a source said.
The bowls all have specific contracts indicating a specific pick from a conference to play another specific pick from another conference.
But if that conference is the Big 12 and it doesn’t exist anymore, it would be nullify the bowl agreement and nullify the television contract, a source said.
“You’d be starting over," a source said. "It involves everyone. What are we going to do? Have a draft of teams? ESPN doesn’t want to broadcast Michigan vs. Fresno State, it wants to televise Michigan against a comparable BCS program.”
“If the Big 12 doesn't survive," said a college football industry source, “the bowl system will be a gigantic mess.”