John Klein: Tulsa is in best possible position for BCS bowl access
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, December 24, 2012
12/24/12 at 4:42 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: BCS bowl is reasonable goal for Tulsa
Tulsa may already be in the best position possible for the new BCS formula and playoff.
In 2014, just one slot will be available to the highest ranked team from five conferences, the so-called "group of five." That group includes Conference USA, the Big East, Mountain West, Mid-America and Sun Belt.
The five power leagues will each be guaranteed one slot in the new BCS bowl and playoffs. Those leagues are the Big 12, Big 10, Southeastern, Pac-12 and ACC.
The "group of five" conferences will get an average of about $17.25 million (25 percent of the new contract's payout) each, and the five power conferences will each receive an average of about $91 million (75 percent of the payout), according to an ESPN report.
So it begs the question: If moving conferences doesn't involve moving up to one of the five power conferences, why do it?
That's the question facing Houston, SMU, Memphis, Boise State and the others that have jumped from one "group of five" league to another.
In other words, what's the advantage? Answer? None.
Maybe you'll get a little more television revenue, but even that is in question. There is no way anyone with the Big East can predict what the new television deal will be for the Big East or how it will stack up against the Conference USA deal.
It might be wise for TU to follow the path of Northern Illinois, which turned a Mid-America Conference championship into an Orange Bowl invitation. Or Boise State, which beat up on a weak WAC to become the darling of the non-BCS leagues.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are comfortably in the Big 12 Conference with a clearly defined path to the BCS bowls and playoffs. Win the league.
Tulsa also has a path, although it is not as easily defined. TU will have to win Conference USA and be the highest ranked team from the five lesser conferences to be in the BCS bowls and playoffs.
Whether it is Conference USA, the Sun Belt, the Big East, Mountain West or MAC doesn't matter. Everyone below the big five conferences is in the same boat and has the same access.
Every school outside of the big five conferences says the most important thing to them, even more than television revenue, is access to the BCS bowls and playoffs.
So if all five of the non-BCS leagues have an equal access, and the money is relatively equal, what's the use of moving from league to league? Pick one and then start winning football games.
In fact, it could be argued that playing in a weaker football league could actually be a benefit. When Boise State was running through the WAC every year without a loss, no one was asking who the Broncos beat in their league.
You can be in the Mountain West or MAC or even the Sun Belt. It doesn't matter which league has the tougher schedule. This is about winning games and being the highest ranked team from outside the power leagues.
Teams jumping from Conference USA to the Big East makes no sense. Now, if the Big 12 or the Big 10 or the SEC comes calling, that is a different issue.
But, movement in the leagues outside of the big five defies common sense.
That's why Tulsa's position may actually be better than most believe.
TU is in a solid league and has a very good program.
Tulsa wasn't that far from being Northern Illinois this year. If the Golden Hurricane plays just a little better at Iowa State and Arkansas, and doesn't go in the tank at SMU, then TU is 13-0.
Let us assure you, an undefeated Tulsa would be in the Orange Bowl before a one-loss Northern Illinois.
That's why Tulsa's league affiliation, if it isn't the Big 12, may not be that critical.
Hey, let's be honest. It may actually be easier to reach the BCS bowls through a weaker football conference than trying to form some super league in the "group of five."
Perhaps the best chance is to follow the Boise State or Northern Illinois example. Your league doesn't matter. If you have a good enough record, and you've won a game or two against teams from the power leagues, then you are on target to reach one of those big bowls.
Tulsa officials have maintained for much of the past decade that access to the BCS is the most important factor. TU President Steadman Upham has repeatedly said he considers BCS access by far the most important factor in conference affiliation.
If so, then any league short of the Big 12 is fine for Tulsa.
It may not be the most comfortable spot for Tulsa, watching and waiting as team after team makes a jump to a new league.
It has been especially difficult for TU fans as other leagues sought schools with far less football to offer, such as Tulane, SMU and Memphis.
However, sources say TU has been in talks for more than a year with other leagues, specifically the Big East and Mountain West.
Why Tulsa has not moved, or been invited, is up for debate.
But there doesn't appear to be much incentive for Tulsa to jump anyway.
Conference USA has the potential, and so far the same stability and incentives, for Tulsa to stay where it is.
Shawn Jackson celebrates after the overtime win of the UCF v Tulsa conference championship football game at Chapman stadium. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World