Big Ten, Pac-10 agree to join bowl alliance

ATLANTA (AP) — A true national championship in college football is now a reality. And the first game between the two top-ranked teams will be played after the 1998 season.
ABC Sports officials said today they have signed a seven-year deal with the bowl alliance, Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences, which will bring the six major conferences together in a bowl package for the first time.
The site of the first title game has yet to be determined, but the Rose Bowl will get the glamour game in 2002, ABC officials said. Three other bowls will be involved in the rotation and each will host two title games.
The current bowls in the alliance — the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar — are expected to remain in the rotation, with the title game played in a different site each year.
The biggest sticking point in arranging the package was satisfying the Rose Bowl. According to ABC, the deal stipulates that if the top two teams are from the Pac-10 and Big Ten, those teams would be matched in the designated title game, and the Rose Bowl would choose two other teams.
ABC Sports officials have scheduled a conference call at 12:30 p.m. to announce further details of the deal.
“Thanks to the hard work of all the conference commissioners and athletic directors, college football fans will finally have a guaranteed annual national championship football game,” ABC Sports president Steve Bornstein said today. “It is gratifying that ABC Sports, as the network of college football, was the catalyst to make this possible.”
For years, college commissioners and coaches have been calling for a true title game, but until today no plan was able to satisfy all parties involved. Currently, the ACC, Big East, SEC, Big 12 and Notre Dame are in the bowl alliance, with the Pac-10 and Big Ten out of the mix because of their Rose Bowl commitments.
“I’ve thought for years that after the bowls are all over, they ought to have one more game, but that’s not the case,” said Ohio State coach John Cooper. “This sounds like the bowls are going to stage a national championship game, as opposed to a playoff or a game after the bowl games are over. Just like the Fiesta this year. Now the Rose Bowl is in the mix.”
Although financial terms of deal were unavailable, ABC currently has the rights to the Rose and Sugar bowls. Until now, the Rose Bowl, which matches the Big Ten champion against the Pac-10 winner, did not participate in the alliance bowl package.
Details have yet to be worked out on how the No. 1 and No. 2 teams will be determined, although the current bowl alliance ranking uses the writers’ poll of The Associated Press and coaches’ poll of CNN-USA Today.
The Rose Bowl still holds on to most of its Big Ten-Pac-10 tradition. ABC officials said if one team from the Big Ten or Pac-10 qualified for the national title game, the remaining team would automatically play in the Rose Bowl. If neither of those conference champs were ranked first or second, they would play in the Rose Bowl. In 2002, the Rose Bowl would match 1 vs. 2, no matter the teams.
“The main thing we wanted to do was give our teams access to the 1 vs. 2 game when we’re qualified and to preserve the bowl system as we know it,” said Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger.
“There will be some complaints and criticism of it, I’ve already heard some. But I also heard a great deal last year when we went into the Michigan game ranked No. 2 in the country, and we’re not going to have a chance to play in the big game, the 1 vs. 2 game. There was a very loud noise from a lot of people who love the Buckeyes saying that something needed to be done about that.”