Clarifying the Big East-BCS relationship

This morning I spoke with Bowl Championship Series Director Bill Hancock, who provided some clarification about the BCS’s automatic-qualification standards and formulas for conferences.

The issue came up Tuesday as a result of the Big 12 telling West Virginia it could be accepted into that conference pending formal approval, giving the Big East conference yet another team defection. The Big East intimated it would likely hold West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse to a conference restriction that would keep the schools as Big East members for 27 months. I pointed to a major reason why that might be the case: the millions of dollars that could be lost by the Big East if it somehow were to slip out of automatic-qualifier BCS status.

And while that’s true, the annual qualification standards cited as one of the reasons currently applies only to non-BCS conferences attempting to achieve BCS status. The Big East is guaranteed to remain a BCS conference through the 2013 season, but like the other BCS conferences, that’s only a guarantee through 2013.

Whether the Big East -- or any other conference -- retains BCS status from 2014-17 depends heavily on an evaluation of member schools’ performances during the 2010 to 2013 regular seasons. That’s the reason why retaining Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia matters to the Big East.

Another factor in whether the Big East retains BCS status: The Big East doesn’t have a contract with a specific BCS bowl a la the Big 10 with the Rose Bowl, which puts it in a precarious position when compared with the other BCS conferences.

When asked if the Big East could lose its BCS status if it does not have a contract with a bowl in 2014, Hancock said: “Any of the conferences could, if the marketplace requests it.” He defined “marketplace” as the bowl games’ boards and television partners. (ESPN has the exclusive television, radio, digital, international and marketing rights for the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls through 2014 and the BCS title game through 2013.)

Hancock said whether the Big East could end up entering a contact with a BCS bowl is dependent on “Negotiations among all conferences for any new BCS bowl. This would be part of conversations coming up.”