The ongoing collapse of the Pac-12 as a conference may have a significant impact on college football’s bowl season in 2024.
Bowl season was already going to be dramatically changed by the expansion of the College Football Playoff next fall. But with the Pac-12 possibly dissolving as a conference or merging/being absorbed by another conference, a door is now open for a second Group of 5 school to receive an automatic bid into the 12-team Playoff.
Bowl games that have tie-ins with the Pac-12 also could be looking for new partnerships in 2024.
The Sun Bowl has tie-ins with the ACC and Pac-12, and per the El Paso Times, the ACC half states the Sun Bowl will “have a power conference team to play opposite the ACC team.” A dissolved Pac-12 would leave the Sun Bowl without an opponent for an ACC team, and a merged/rebuilt Pac-12 may not qualify as “a power conference team.”
The Las Vegas Bowl will also be looking for a new tie-in. It currently pits a Pac-12 team against a team from either the SEC or Big Ten, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the bowl’s contract with the Pac-12 allows the Las Vegas Bowl can “reopen negotiations should the complexion of the conference be significantly altered.” I’d argue that yes, the Pac-12’s complexion has been significantly altered.
The Alamo Bowl has had the top choice of Pac-12 and Big 12 teams after the New Year’s Six matchups were decided, but that will be in peril after the 2023 season.
The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy reports that all five bowls with Pac-12 tie-ins, the three already mentioned along with the Holiday Bowl and the LA Bowl, are already talking with other conferences about replacing the Pac-12. McMurphy also notes that due to existing tie-ins with other conferences, some bowls could end up with lower selections than they currently have.
Another unknown for the bowls is what selection they would receive if they acquire a new conference tie-in. The current bowls for each conference have contracts that determine what selection they make, so a bowl wouldn’t simply volunteer to pick a lower selection.
“Is the conference going to honor the selection order, or will the (conference) commissioner try to get everyone to ‘Kumbaya it’ and agree to do what’s best for the conference?” a bowl source said. “If a bowl wants to fight it, then the conference can not so subtly remind them that they’ll be starting new contracts in 2026 and can hold their feet to the fire.”
Another source told McMurphy that we could get bowl games between teams from the same conference that didn’t play during the regular season because of how bloated conferences are getting.
Bowl season was already becoming a bloated mess with the inclusion of 5-7 teams to fill slots in games. We’re now getting to the point where conferences are becoming so large that intraconference bowl games may become a thing. That’s out of control. I’m here for the bowl game between 6-6 Nebraska and 7-5 Maryland somewhere in Texas. That would truly be a classic Big Ten Bowl game.