On yesterday's AA Podcast, John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal predicted ESPN would win the rights to the new college football playoff soon to hit the market. Bristol took a step in that direction by planting another flag high atop college football's mountain this week.
SBJ reports ESPN has won the rights to the new Champions Bowl, played between the champions of the SEC and Big XII. The reported deal runs from 2015 to 2026 and matches the number ESPN is paying for the Rose Bowl – $80 million dollars per year. That huge figure and commitment from ESPN is significant in the changing college football landscape.
First, it immediately places the Champions Bowl right next to the Rose Bowl as the elite games of the college football bowl structure, leaving the Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar in its wake. The presence of the SEC champion is enough to do that on its own, but this is a game with no history and no tradition. And yet, it's been placed on equal footing with the Rose Bowl.
Second, the business of college football is still going as strong as ever. The cries of the NCAA for culture change in college football are all well and good when they're talking down to a program run amok with power and evil men. It will really mean something when the first priority of the sport isn't stuffing its own pockets and the pockets of bowl executives. As long as the athletes are making nothing while these execs and others make millions, no real change will happen.
And finally, ESPN is declaring their intention to remain the home of college football. The network already lost the World Cup to Fox and won't want to lose the new postseason as well, whatever it looks like. ESPN has already committed $160 million to just two bowl games and it's more than likely they'll match whatever price tag is set for the first ever I-A playoff.