Gator Bowl 'leaning heavily' toward Big 12
We reported here three weeks ago that the Gator Bowl was expected to pick a Big 12 team rather than a Big East option this season, and Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett confirmed Tuesday that his bowl is pleased with its Big 12 options and has all but ruled out selecting a Big East team.
"We haven't closed the door, but that's the way we're leaning, heavily," Catlett said. "We want to preserve our options for next season, and the consensus of our selection committee Monday was to go in that direction."
The Gator and Sun bowls each get two Big East and Big 12 teams over the four-year span that started last season, and the Gator gets to choose first each year. Because West Virginia played in Jacksonville last season, picking a Big East team this season would lock the Gator into the Big 12 for the remaining two years.
Catlett also said it is "likely" that the Gator would be able on Sunday to notify the Big East of its commitment to the Big 12 (without picking a specific team), which would allow the Big East bowls to announce their Big East teams a week early next week. If West Virginia beats Connecticut on Saturday, the Mountaineers clinch the league's automatic BCS berth, and Connecticut would be out of contention for an at-large, allowing the Big East's four affiliated bowls (Sun, Meineke Car Care, Papajohns.com and International) to announce their teams early, which would help with ticket sales.
"Absolutely, we know the importance of releasing these teams early," Catlett said. "We're talking to the Sun Bowl and talking with (Big East commissioner) Mike Tranghese every week, and we probably only need one more week to know where we want to go."
The Gator, at worst, would have an 8-4 Texas Tech team, fresh off an upset of Oklahoma and bringing a high-scoring passing offense that would draw local fans to the game. USF is likely headed to El Paso or Charlotte, with trips to Toronto (distance) or Birmingham (repeat of last year) unlikely.
Of all the Big East bowls, the Sun has the best local attendance and a low allocation of 8,000 tickets to its Big East representative, which would make USF a reasonable possibility if the Bulls win at Pittsburgh and Connecticut loses to West Virginia. Such a scenario would likely have USF, Connecticut and Cincinnati all 9-3.
The Big East divides its bowl revenue among all eight teams, with slightly higher portions for teams in higher bowls. The BCS bowl team will get $2.0-million from the conference, the Gator/Sun team will get $1.5-million, and the other three bowls will result in a $1.0-million payout from the Big East. The conference will also pay between $100,000 and $400,000 for travel costs, but that amount will vary solely on the distance traveled.