Is the Annual Orange Bowl in Danger of Becoming Even More Irrelevant?
Let's not put the cart before the horse, but there are other Miami matters to think about besides whether or not the Hurricanes leap to the Big 12 or stay relegated to the ACC. And that's mostly the fate of the Orange Bowl. The game has already lost a lot of its luster in the BCS era, but could news of conference realignment and a possible playoff system further hurl it towards irrelevance? It's looking that way.
In the 15 seasons between 1983 and 1997, eight national champions were crowned at the Orange Bowl (ironically, the Hurricanes only snagged a championship there once). Granted, the system for determining a champion was pretty shitty back then anyway, but the Orange Bowl was certainly benefiting from it.
Then the BCS system came around, and the championship was to be decided in Miami once every four years. Nowadays of course, the champs are decided in a separate game, but the Orange Bowl committee still hosts the national championship once every four year. That's been good for tourism to Miami and keeping important post-season college football in Miami, but not so great for the actual Orange Bowl.
In 2006 the Bowl, aligned itself with the ACC and guaranteed the conference's champion a spot in the game. At the time, that seemed like a good move. The University of Miami had just joined the conference, and it looked like the ACC could become a bona fide football power house. That didn't exactly work out, and the Orange Bowl is now a TV ratings stinker compared to its BCS brethren. Last year's game featured one of its most pathetic match ups to date: number 15 Clemson versus Number 23 West Virginia. Dreadful.
Now the Big 12 and the SEC have announced that they've reached an agreement to pit their two champions against each other in an as yet un-located bowl game. It's a pretty strong signal that the BCS system as we know it could be dead after 2014. No one is quite sure what that's going to look like. A four-team playoff is the most talked about idea.
Miami, of course, is still a primo place to host a bowl game. Our weather and tourism infrastructure are hard to match. Hopefully the Orange Bowl committee can keep its deal of hosting the National Championship game once a year, and work its way into hosting playoff games when its not.
As for the relevance of the actual Orange Bowl though? The four biggest football conferences have definite deals to send their champions to bowl games. That leaves the Orange Bowl stuck with the ACC, and if that conference continues to lose football relevance, expect the Orange Bowl to go with it (and no, dear God, don't expect bringing the Big East into the mess is going to fix anything).
Then again, paying heed to Bowl game tradition is what's gotten post-season college football into the mess its currently in to begin with. Maybe its time for the Orange Bowl to go the way of the building that once shared its name.