PHOENIX - The Bowl Championship Series is opening its automatic bids to all Division I-A conferences starting with the 2008 season, part of a new plan under which the leagues will be judged from top to bottom.
Currently, only the six conferences that comprise the BCS can earn automatic entry into college football’s four major bowl games, including the national title game. The previous standard for holding on to that qualification was based on the average BCS standings finish of a conference’s top team over a four-year period.
That will still be a factor, but not the only one.
“In addition, we will look at a conference’s overall strength,” BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg said Wednesday, the final day of meetings with officials from 11 major college football conferences and Notre Dame’s athletic director.
The Irish, despite recent struggles on the field, may be the biggest winners in the new format.
Beginning in 2006, Notre Dame will earn an automatic BCS berth with a top eight ranking in the final standings, Weiberg said. Also, under a new arrangement, Notre Dame is now guaranteed BCS money every season — even when they don’t play in a game.
In the past, Notre Dame would receive upward of $14 million when they played in a BCS game, but nothing if they didn’t.
According to collegebcs.com, the Irish won't receive a full share when it qualifies for a BCS game. Instead, Notre Dame will get get the equivalent to what a second team from a conference would get, which is currently $4.5 million. Then, in years in which the Irish do not play in a BCS game, they will receive $1 million from the BCS, about the share a non-participant from a BCS conference would receive once its conference divides it up.
In the first seven years of the BCS, Notre Dame has played in one BCS bowl and made about $13 million in the process. Under the new payout structure, the Irish would make more than that in the next seven years by qualifying for at least two BCS game ($14 million or more), but less if they only play in one BCS game ($10.5 million).
The BCS will also take into account the number of teams in a conference that finish in the BCS top 25 over a four-year period.
In addition, there is a proposed appeals process if a conference doesn’t match up with the others under the new formula but still believes it belongs in the BCS.
“We’re set through the first two years (2006-07) of the new agreement, with the same six conferences having the automatic-qualification berths,” said Weiberg, the Big 12 commissioner. “This evaluation will then occur, and it could change for the final two years of this new agreement.”
The BCS signed a four-year deal with Fox to televise the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls from 2007-10 and the national title game from 2007-09. The Rose Bowl has its own television deal with ABC.
Weiberg said the new evaluation system could lead to more — or less — automatic bids.
The Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big East champions have had automatic entry into the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls since the BCS was implemented in 1998.
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