NEW ORLEANS -- If you haven't done so already, check out my column from earlier on why BCS bowls need more freedom, not less, to create better matchups. Some things about BCS bowls likely will never change, but the selection process can be loosened -- eliminating the two-team-per-league limit and the automatic-qualifying designation -- to avoid controversial picks like Virginia Tech.
One area I explored for the piece is how double-hosting -- having the traditional bowl game plus the national championship game -- impacts the bowls, the selections and the operations. We're in the sixth year of the BCS title game, and the Allstate Sugar Bowl is the second game to double-host for the second time (following the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl).
2006 season: Fiesta
2007 season: Sugar
2008 season: Orange
2009 season: Rose
2010 season: Fiesta
2011 season: Sugar
For the most part, I found that double-hosting doesn't impact the selections for the traditional bowls. The bowls that double-host typically have the last pick of teams, so their selections are pretty much locked in because of the AQ rules and the conference tie-ins. This happened for Fiesta in 2006 (last pick: Boise State), Sugar in 2007 ( last pick: Hawaii), Orange in 2008 (last pick: Cincinnati) and Fiesta in 2010 (last pick: Connecticut).
The Rose Bowl's tie-ins with the Big Ten and Pac-12 locked in its selections in 2009 (Big Ten champ Ohio State and Pac-12 champ Oregon).
The Sugar Bowl didn't have the last pick this year despite double-hosting and picked Virginia Tech as an at-large ahead of Boise State and Kansas State.
"The Sugar Bowl had a unique circumstance with selection," Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms told me. "Usually, it's the last pick standing. If it happens to be an at-large, there may be some decisions to be made. But if it's not, like this year, we had the final pick, and the Big East champion [West Virginia] was automatic."
The Sugar Bowl acknowledged that its familiarity with Virginia Tech, which has appeared in the game three times since 1995, factored into the selection. One theory is that because the national title game participants, LSU and Alabama, boast fan bases that can commute easily to the game, the game needed teams from other regions that typically travel well.
But Sugar Bowl chief operating officer Jeff Hundley said hotel room rates are soaring for the championship game, and that double-hosting had little bearing on the selection.
"It's one of those cases where you have to look at your game, the annual bowl game in the context of that game," Andy Bagnato, the Fiesta Bowl's chief of communications, told me. "You can't really have it dictated by the championship matchup. Obviously, the champ game helps you leverage ticket sales for your [bowl] game."
The Fiesta Bowl sets up its ticketing plan so folks have to buy tickets to the traditional game to have a chance to buy championship game tickets. Other games like the Sugar have similar setups when double-hosting.
"Our season-ticket holders are required to buy both games," Hundley told me. "We certainly don't want people cherry-picking the championship game, which would be the natural inclination most of the time. That's one caveat we have."
The bowls take different approaches to the operations of double-hosting. The Rose Bowl, for instance, goes to great lengths to separate the title game from its traditional contest.
The teams in the title game don't stay in the same hotels as the Rose Bowl teams, and the media setup also is in a different location. While Rose Bowl week is very much Los Angeles-based, championship week is more removed from the city.
"We take a lot of pride in the fact that we don't want the championship game to outshine the Rose Bowl game," Rose Bowl chief administration officer Kevin Ash told me. "[The teams] don't come in on the heels of the other game, and you're kicking a team out and bringing a team in.
"You want them both to feel separate and important."