SEC makes power play with Big 12

You would have thought he was announcing permanent peace in our lifetimes. Even though the decree came in writing, SEC commissioner Mike Slive’s statement about a new bowl game featuring the SEC and Big 12 champions came across as downright giddy.

Just read it aloud: “A new January bowl tradition is born. This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model. Most importantly, it will provide our student-athletes, coaches and fans with an outstanding bowl experience.”

Monty Hall couldn’t have put as much pizzazz on the page if he were selling a car behind door number 3.

The problem is: the game being advertised will likely never happen, and everybody knows it. The conferences have finished with teams in the top four 14 times apiece, including 11 of the last 14 years. And they’ve won seven national championships in a row going back to Texas’ BCS Championship in 2005.

The notion that SEC and Big 12 champions won’t be in some sort of playoff, regardless of its ultimate makeup, is pure folly.

That didn’t stop acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas from joining the sales pitch.

“Our goal is to provide the fans across the country with a New Year’s Day prime-time tradition,” Neinas said. “This is a landmark agreement between two of the most successful football conferences during the BCS era to stage a postseason event. The creation of this game featuring the champions of the Big 12 and SEC will have tremendous resonance in college football.”

If Neinas doesn’t get a full-time commissioner gig he would make a great timeshare salesman.

This is a classic bait and switch, only everybody is in on it. Not even the hotdog venders think the SEC and Big 12 champs will be shut out of the national championship picture. So, what is this new bowl announcement all about?

As always the answer is simple: money. Lots of it.

Because of the down-ticket strength of the SEC, Slive will be able to get Rose Bowl-type money, perhaps even BCS-type money, for a game that will feature the second best team in his conference. This as-yet-unnamed-and-unsponsored bowl also guarantees a windfall to the SEC if only conference champions are eligible for the playoffs, which seems likely. If two teams from a single conference make the playoffs, this new bowl could have the third-best team in the league.

And people will still clamor to see it. Last year, Alabama was the second-best team in the SEC at year’s end, so if the playoff scenario only took conference champs, the Crimson Tide would have lined up against Oklahoma. Anybody think that one wouldn’t have been worth watching?

The year before that, it would have been South Carolina against Nebraska, and Florida vs. Nebraska in Tim Tebow’s final game as a Gator in 2009.

The second or third-best SEC teams are still major draws. Sponsors will clamor to pour money into this thing, even if it is the Runner-Up Bowl.

Slive was very coy in not announcing where the game would be played. Once the playoff format is announced, he could put the new bowl out to bid. Jerry Jones would love to have it in his entertainment wonderland, as would cities from Atlanta to St. Louis.

No wonder the commissioner’s statement had more pep than normal. There is gold for the taking in January. And the SEC will continue to get the lion’s share of it.