Bowl games matter.
Sure, the bowl system may be antiquated and doomed to be shelved, but for now, it's what we have. And to the teams and conferences those programs belong to, the postseason games that they have aligned themselves with are one of the largest planks to stand on when it comes to determining one's self worth.
"Bowl tie-ins are extremely crucial," ACC commissioner John Swofford admitted during this summer's media days. "Everyone is seeking to put their teams on the biggest and best stages possible. And there's a lot of competition out there to do it. It can get a little testy."
That's why the bowl execs, the men and women in the Technicolor sports jackets, are wined, dined and massaged by conference officials whenever they show up to a football game. That's why we see so much jockeying and changing of conference-to-bowl contracts. Everyone's searching for the best deals to bring in the most money, bring the most eyeballs to the TV, and in the end, put the nicest bowl trophies on display back home in the practice facility.
"I wouldn't be honest with you if I said bowl selection wasn't a factor in our decision to move," a Nebraska athletic official confessed to me during the 2011 College World Series, played the week leading into the Huskers' official date of departure from the Big Ten to the Big 12. "The goal is to win the conference championship and get a BCS game. But only one team is going to do that. So you also need to align yourself with a conference that has you in a good game even if you are one of the teams that come up short of your ultimate goal."
So which conferences are in the best position to take care of their membership during the bowl season? We ranked them so you don't have to.
January games: 6
Bowls: BCS (Sugar), Capital One, Cotton, Outback, Chick-fil-A, Gator, Music City, Liberty, Compass
2011 bowl teams: 9
All-time BCS at-large berths: 8
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