A new era for the Cotton Bowl begins today as Ole Miss plays Oklahoma State at the $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
Cotton Bowl officials ditched the antiquated Cotton Bowl Stadium after last season. Not only will the game be played in Jerry Jones’ palatial new home for his NFL team but Cotton Bowl officials also have offices in the stadium.
The Cotton Bowl, once one of the jewels of college football’s postseason, is ready to rise again.
“We are very proud of our game and are very excited about our new home,” Cotton Bowl president Rick Baker said. “We want to participate at the highest possible level that we are allowed to participate in college football.”
Baker shies away from talking directly about the Cotton Bowl making a bid to become a BCS game down the line. With the BCS about to start a new television contract with ESPN next season, the soonest a change to the lineup could happen would be the 2014 season.
But when the time comes for the conference commissioners to open discussions about the future sites of the BCS, it would be shocking if the Cotton Bowl did not make a push to be included — again.
Baker and his team made a pitch to become a BCS bowl earlier in the decade, when Bowl Championship Series officials determined it wanted to expand from four games to five.
Instead, bowl officials from the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta, wanting to ensure they would host the lucrative championship game once every four years instead of once every five, came up with the idea of double-hosting.
The Cotton Bowl’s new home in Arlington, Texas, has already landed some of the biggest sporting events out there: the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the Super Bowl.
But getting into the BCS might be tougher.
Double-hosting is hard work, but the bowls have proved capable of pulling it off. While a decision to work a fifth site into the BCS or possibly replace one with the Cotton Bowl would ultimately be the hands of the conference commissioners, the bowls are not without influence.
The Big Ten and Pac-10 have made it clear that they believe whatever is in the best interest of the Rose Bowl is in their best interest.
The Southeastern Conference has had a long relationship with the Sugar Bowl.
The Atlantic Coast Conference’s relationship with the Orange Bowl is relatively new, but it works well geographically. Would the ACC want to send its champion to Texas?
Then there is the Big 12 and the Fiesta Bowl. The ties between to the two are also relatively new, but both have benefited from the relationship. Big 12 fans like heading to the desert in the winter and with teams such as Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska, the league often provides the bowl one of college football’s signature programs.
The Big 12 played its championship game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium earlier this month and commissioner Dan Beebe has said the idea of making it a permanent destination is up for discussion.
But that would probably hurt the Cotton Bowl’s chances of getting into the BCS. It’s unlikely the Big 12 would want to send its champion to a bowl at the same site as its championship game.
Few bowls can match the history and tradition of the Cotton Bowl. It dates to 1936 and Baker and his crew like to boast that it has hosted seven gams that decided national championships.
Even when it was being played in a second-rate facility, the Cotton Bowl has always been praised by participants as a first-rate operation. And now it’s being played in the Taj Mahal of football stadiums.
Ralph D. Russo/The Associated Press