Somebody explain this bowl thing to me…

Normally, I don’t think much about this sort of thing, which is probably why I’m puzzled. Perhaps y’all can explain it to me.

This morning, it was reported that Gamecocks are going to the Capital One Bowl. OK, sounds par for the course. In recent years, they have gone to one bowl or another named after some corporation.

But the Clemson Tigers are going to the Orange Bowl.

Now here’s what puzzles me. “Orange Bowl” is something I’ve heard of. It seems to imply a certain prestige. I mean, there’s the Rose Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl, and the Orange Bowl, and that pretty much sums up all the bowl games that I’ve been hearing about (admittedly, without actually trying) since my youth. Which in my mind confers a certain legitimacy, rightly or wrongly.

Meanwhile, these bowls named for sponsors — well, I have to wonder about the value of such naming rights. It seems that if you’re the sponsor of the Rose Bowl, that confers something on your brand. But if you rename it for your company — say, the ABC Corporation Bowl — do you thereby lose some of the cachet that you were trying to buy? (Vizio seems to agree.)

I don’t know. Not my particular marketing specialty. But it does seem to me that invitations to bowls named for commodities, rather than companies, carry greater prestige. Just inferring.

In any case, Wikipedia confirms my rough impression. The Rose Bowl dates back to 1902, and is the biggie. The Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl both date to 1935. Something called the Tangerine Bowl was played from 1947-1982, after which it was called the Florida Citrus Bowl from 1983 to 2002, after which it became the Capital One Citrus Bowl before dropping the “citrus.”

Anyway, fully acknowledging my gross ignorance on this subject, I nevertheless have the impression that being invited to the Orange Bowl is a bigger deal.

Given that, I have trouble squaring that with something else that I just sort of barely, halfway know — that the Gamecocks have had a better year.

I would never ask you to go by me, but I see that the AP sportwriters, or whoever does that weekly poll, have USC ranked 10th, and Clemson ranked 14th. (I glanced through other polls, and USC was always 9th or 10th, and Clemson was always 14th or 15th, so it seems we have something like consensus.) And I’m also aware that the Gamecocks pretty much cleaned Clemson’s clock just over a week ago.

So what gives? How does stuff like this happen? Is it random? Is it who you know?

17 thoughts on “Somebody explain this bowl thing to me…

  1. Doug Ross

    The big conferences have automatic berths to particular bowls. Clemson, by beating Virginia Tech, got the spot in the Orange Bowl as the ACC (Almost Competitive Conference).

    USC got one of the also-ran slots with an automatic bid to the Citrus Bowl.

    Trust me, more people will watch USC-Nebraska than Clemson-West Virginia.

  2. Daniel

    The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) took over the organizational role for the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta Bowls in 1998. They added the BCS National Championship game in 2007.

    The BCS bowls are organized to allow the conference champions of 6 large football conferences to play in a BCS bowl. That’s how Clemson received an Orange Bowl invite (it was automatic).

    They’ve kept the traditional names for those bowls, but make no mistake, they’re sponsored as well. It’s the “Rose Bowl presented by Vizio,” the “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl,” the “Discover Orange Bowl” and the “Allstate Sugar Bowl.”

  3. Bryan Caskey

    There is a very complicated answer to the question of “Which teams go to which bowls?”

    It’s not “who you know”. The BCS rankings are the ones to pay attention to, since they are the combination of the AP (writers) USA Today (coaches) and computer algorithms. Yes, computer formulas are used.

    As Doug mentioned, each of the large conferences have an automatic bid to certain bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta) with each bowl having historical tie-in that they “try” to keep. Also, there are rules about small conferences that have highly ranked teams (See TCU in 2010).

    After the large bowls get their teams, the rest of the bowls get to select in a sort of draft. Each bowl gets to pick from certain conferences they are historically affiliated with.

    Long story – very short: The Capital One Bowl is the first bowl allowed to select an SEC school that is not in a BCS bowl. For South Carolina to be selected was a feather in our cap. In selecting, the Capital One Bowl has a “selection committee” that votes on who to offer an invitation to. Consideration is given to whatever they want, but the idea of each bowl is to basically make money. Therefore, they pick the most prestigious teams available to them in an attempt to sell tickets and have good TV money.

    For instance, the Capital One Bowl probably considered that South Carolina fans were more likely to travel to Orlando than Arkansas fans – merely because of geography. Also, they might have considered Spurrier to be a nationally interesting figure.

    Clemson’s offer from the Orange was required, as they were the ACC champ. If Clemson had not beaten Virginia Tech, then Clemson would have fallen way down in the pecking order of the bowls.

    I could probably spend about 45 minutes and a six pack of beer explaining more, but that’s the quick and dirty.

  4. Joanne

    Doug’s right, and I believe Orange Bowl does have a sponsor. Discover, maybe?

    There’s also a Kraft Hunger Bowl? Or something like that.

    But, yes, we cleaned clemson’s clock, and even stranger Virginia Tech got the Sugar Bowl after being destroyed by clemson. Intereting. Guess Beamer Ball still rules something.

    Very proud of the job the Gamecocks did. As the ESPN guy said, it was a “quiet” 10-2 year. We always thought there’d be hoopla over 10 wins. Now, it’s like, “Oh, huh, we won 10. Cool.”

  5. Steven Davis

    I don’t know Doug, the Orange Bowl will be the only football game on January 4th, and typically a high ratings game. There are overlapping games on during the Capitol One Bowl.

    Also Brad, just so you’ll know, the Cotton Bowl will not be played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium, that will be the site of the TicketCity Bowl.

  6. Mark Stewart

    You mean like the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl?

    Might be about time to pack that one in.

    And yes, absolutely, no corporate name ever rises to the level of an event name in anyone’s mind. The corporations should focus on the good will gains achieveable by association instead of trying to smack their intended audience over the head with their own brand of hubris.

  7. Wes Wolfe

    The conferences have automatic bowl tie-ins for their champions. The ACC and Big East champs go to the Orange, Big XII to the Fiesta and SEC to the Sugar. With LSU and Alabama in the national championship game, that means the Sugar gets two at-large bids. Also, the BCS rules forbid more than two teams from one conference playing in the “series,” so USC got the SEC’s next-best slot, the Capital One Bowl. In the SEC, the Outback and Cotton bowls have the next picks, with the Cotton getting first choice among remaining SEC West teams, while the Outback gets the next pick among the East squads. The Chick-fil-A Bowl picks fifth, the Gator Bowl picks sixth, then the Music City and Liberty bowls work out Nos. 7 and 8. The SEC doesn’t have a 10th bowl-eligible team for the No. 9 slot, so the Compass Bowl selects a Sun Belt team in place of an SEC team. As always, there’s more on Wikipedia:

  8. Wes Wolfe

    As for BCS at-large bids, those are up to the discretion of the individual bowl committees, and teams that bring a lot fans to the game and draw higher TV ratings will usually beat out a team with a better record on the field. Wikipedia’s got you covered there, too:

  9. Scout

    I have learned way more than I ever would naturally be inclined to know about this football stuff because my husband is kind of insane about it and I try to learn enough to kind of pretend to participate in conversation on the subject occasionally.

    Here is what I have learned. Some bowls are BCS bowls and they apparently are more fancy pants. The Orange Bowl is one of those. If you win a conference you automatically get a BCS bowl, even if you have a stupid conference.

    I gather that it is generally accepted that the ACC is wimpy compared to the SEC. So even though we beat the ACC champion and almost got to play in the SEC championship, we don’t get a BCS bowl.

    What I don’t see is why Georgia got to be SEC east champs when we beat them.

  10. Phillip

    Doug is correct that once Clemson won the ACC title, it got the automatic invite to the Orange Bowl. But get this: the Sugar Bowl, which is also one of the venerable “commodities” Bowls and considered by many to be a “better” bowl than Orange, took Virginia Tech…which has now been trounced twice by Clemson, by equally big margins.

    On his radio show this AM, Dan Patrick had it right…he felt that usually the BCS gets the right two teams into the title game, but that any talk of “integrity” regarding all the other bowls, is laughable. The main criteria it seems are which schools “travel well” (meaning whose fans will travel in a large numbers and spend big bucks at the game and in the city in the days leading up to the game).

  11. Andrew

    Bowls have never been about fairness or ‘integrity’.

    I’m not sure where folks got that idea or assumption.

    Four out of the top ten clubs are not in major bowls for one reason or another.

    Two clubs: Boise State & TCU get relegated to before Christmas games because they aren’t in major conferences.

    Bowls are and remain post season exhibition games, designed to sell tickets and promote cities during a slow season of the year, and to sell advertising revenue during a period when sports ratings are high. That’s it.

    In actuality, USC was about the fifth best club in the SEC. The Capital One Bowl picked them up with the expectation that USC fans will buy a lot of tickets, as opposed to the Outback Bowl, which many USC fans have indicated that they don’t want to attend for the fourth time in ten years.

    So Georgia, the SEC runner up, goes to the Outback Bowl and plays Big Ten runner up, Michigan State. Normally the Big Ten runner up would go to the Capital One game, but Nebraska has a lot of national interest & Michigan State went tot he Capital One Bowl last year. Bowls don’t like to select teams two years in a row, if they can avoid it.

    So three Florida games, featuring SEC clubs, will be going on simultaneously: Gator, Cap 1, & Outback + Ticket City featuring exiled Penn State in the old Cotton Bowl, going on at the same time on January 2nd.

    Arkansas goes to the Cotton Bowl because they are the first available team from the West (and Jerry Jones wants to watch his team in his stadium, too) – so it will be a SWC rewind there.

    Clemson, the ACC champ, plays the Big East Champ, West Virginia in the Orange Bowl – the only game of the day that Wednesday evening.

  12. bud

    Bryan, one small correction, the AP polls is not used in the BCS. The Harris Poll, a much flawed poll is used instead.

  13. Karen McLeod

    Part of this sounds confusing, because we treat the Carolina/Clemson game as if it were the game of the year. It’s important only to us in SC. The teams are in different conferences, so whether either wins or loses that game does not affect their standing in their respective conference at all. Clemson won the ACC conference, and therefore gets to go to a “big” (BCS) bowl. We did not win the SEC, therefore we get a lesser bowl.

  14. Bryan Caskey

    @bud You’re right, my bad. I heard somewhere that Sandusky was still voting in the Harris poll until just a week or so ago – even after the story about him broke. Amazing if true, but not surprising.

  15. Nick Nielsen

    Any claim the BCS had to the integrity and accuracy of its rankings went out the window the year the only undefeated team in the nation was not in the national championship game.

    It’s all about the M-O-N-E-Y.

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