The Big Ten will add the Holiday Bowl and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to its postseason slate. HolidayBowl.com and BigTen.org announced these agreements Monday afternoon, which will pit Big Ten representatives against Pac-12 foes at southern California game sites.
And the message from the two conferences could not be clearer: Protecting the historical rivalry between the Big Ten and Pac-12 is a top priority.
For years, the Rose Bowl linked these geographically distant conferences by matching up their champions every New Year’s Day afternoon.
But as the college football postseason has evolved, this traditional game of champions has come under fire.
First was the onset of the BCS era. Playing Host to the National Championship Game every four years, the Rose Bowl was periodically denied the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions. Instead, Nebraska (at that time still part of the Big 12) and Miami took the field in Pasadena in 2002, and Texas squared off against USC in 2006.
Yet even during the seasons in which the Rose Bowl was not hosting the National Championship Game, the customary Big Ten and Pac-12 representatives were no lock. This was the case in 2003, when Oklahoma was invited to the Rose Bowl to replace Big Ten Champion Ohio State, which was playing for the national title.
As college football stares down its next transition into the postseason playoff that will take hold after the 2014 season, the Rose Bowl’s tradition will once again take a hit as it hosts a national semifinal every three years.
As unique the tradition of Big Ten and Pac-12 champions squaring off on New Year’s Day is, the prestige and revenue from hosting a national semifinal is a higher priority for the Rose Bowl.
This makes this latest move by the Big Ten even more crucial to ensuring that the indelible connection between the two conferences does not fall by the wayside amidst a quickly changing college football landscape.
The Holiday and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowls will certainly not host the highest profile teams the conferences have to offer. And they may very well include non-traditional Big Ten and Pac-12 teams like Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland or Penn State.
But the message from the Big Ten is quite clear. No matter the extensive conference realignment nor the complete makeover of the college football postseason, the Big Ten-Pac-12 connection is a special one and one well worth preserving.