Boise State did well for itself in the BCS era, and they could do even better in the new bowl system. - Otto Kitsinger III
While it's not technically an automatic bid, the Big East should be in position to claim the one spot in the new bowl system given to the so-called "mid-major" conferences almost every year.
The new, post-BCS-but-still-basically-the-BCS bowl system is still being completely hammered out, but the important thing is that the presidents have decided how to accommodate everyone. While the Big East doesn't have a guaranteed seat at the table, they should be there on a regular basis.
Official announcement shortly, but confirming @mcmurphyespn tweet, BCS 2.0 will be 6 bowls, with guaranteed spot for highest Big East/non-AQ— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) November 12, 2012
That guaranteed spot will be in one of the "host bowl" games, which do not have contracts with certain conferences. Most likely these bowls will be the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, and the Cotton Bowl in Arlington.
As many people have since pointed out, when you move everyone into the conferences they will be in when this new bowl system takes effect in 2014, and then look back at the BCS rankings over the last 10 years, a Big East team, either current or future, would have claimed that spot in eight of the last ten years. (The exceptions were Miami University in 2003, in Ben Roethlisberger's senior year, and Hawaii in 2007.)
In the larger picture, at least one team from a "mid-major" conference has finished in the BCS top 10 in eight of the last nine years (although that's unlikely in 2012). In some years there were two teams in the top 10, and in 2009 Cincinnati would have made the four-team playoff, opening the door for a second team to claim a host bowl spot.
2002 - Boise State (ranking uncertain - the BCS only did rankings out to #15 then, but they were the highest-ranked "mid-major" team in the human polls by far)
2003 - Miami University #10
2004 - Boise State #9, with Louisville #10
2005 - Louisville #19
2006 - Louisville #6, with Boise State #8
2007 - Hawaii #10
2008 - Boise State #9, with Cincinnati #12
2009 - Cincinnati #3, with Boise State #6
2010 - Boise State #10
2011 - Boise State #7
So whether it's from the Big East, the Mountain West, or even the MAC, the fear of an undeserving team "stealing" a bid from a third-place Big Ten team or whoever should be unfounded.
From the Big East's perspective, there are still a few questions to be answered:
- How much money is on the table for whichever conference gets this guaranteed bid? There's a total of $690 million out there each season (God, that is such a ridiculous number), but no indication of exactly how that will be divided up.
- Could there be more than one "mid-major" school given a spot in a host bowl if they earn it? In 2004 and 2006, Boise State and Louisville both finished in the top 10 of the final BCS rankings. Assuming there is still some kind of ranking kept for eligible teams, would both of them be eligible to get picked? Or is the one guaranteed spot all the "mid-major" conferences get?
- What happens if there's a scenario like 2009, where Cincinnati would have made the four-team playoff. Would the guaranteed host bowl bid still be there to get a second team in, like Boise State?
- What are the criteria for an independent team to qualify? Are they completely on their own? It sounds like they are, which makes BYU's football independence almost untenable, and guess who's still interested in a 14th football member? (Hint: the Big East.)
All of these questions will be answered in time, but the important thing is that the Big East is still very likely to land their champion in the new top-tier bowl system.