Commentary

Cotton Bowl readies for familiar weave

Postseason game, a regional staple, has emerged from shift in college landscape before

Updated: June 10, 2010, 11:01 PM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- College football change doesn't have to be a bad thing for the Cotton Bowl.

That may seem strange to say, considering the Cotton Bowl could be days away from losing an anchor conference for the second time in its nearly 75-year history. But it made it through the breakup of the Southwest Conference, whose champion came to Dallas 55 straight years, and thanks to a sparkling new home at Cowboys Stadium, the bowl is confident it will make it through this potential shakeup as well.

"If there is major change, which it looks like there could be, we feel we're positioned well for the future, whatever postseason college football ends up being down the road," said Rick Baker, Cotton Bowl president. "We would prefer the Big 12 to stay intact or as close to what it is now as possible. We play in arguably the finest football facility in the country, we have a great title sponsor in AT&T and we are in the fourth-largest TV market. We feel we're going to be relevant in postseason college football."

They'd prefer to do it with big-name, regional schools that have a rich history playing postseason games in Dallas. It's why Baker believes a Big 12 without Colorado or Nebraska is still one that interests the Cotton Bowl.

"I think we would still look at that as a viable Big 12 Conference," Baker said. "I'm sure they would look at adding other schools, but the schools that have historically been here -- the old SWC schools and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State -- from a geographic perspective, appeals to us."

What the Cotton Bowl wants is to become a BCS bowl on par with the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl.

The current BCS arrangement runs through the 2014 season. But if the conference realignment takes place in the next two years, it could force the BCS to add another game soon to accommodate more at-large teams. The Cotton Bowl would be ready to make a strong play for BCS consideration.

Baker isn't buying the notion that mega-conferences would make it easier to transition into a playoff.

"I would just say that some of the strongest supporters of the bowl system and postseason college football as we know it now have been the Big Ten and the Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl. With the changes that have been reported, if anything, those conferences that have been such staunch supporters of the postseason as we know it now, have gotten stronger."

Baker isn't sure what may happen, but he spent much of Thursday thinking about all the possible scenarios. It's possible that if Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State go to the Pac-10 (or 16 at that point), the Cotton Bowl could fall in line after the Rose Bowl in taking a Pac-10 team. That would probably be one of the former Big 12 South teams, allowing the Cotton Bowl to keep its traditional regional draw and have that team go up against a team from the SEC (usually one from the West Division).

"There's so many that the best thing to do is to see what happens and be ready to react," Baker said. "But we have to wait and see what unfolds. It would probably be two years before it took effect."

It's difficult to imagine Baker would be so excited about the opportunities that change can bring if his game was still at the aging Cotton Bowl. Instead, he has an office inside the palace that Jerry Jones built, a stadium that helps make sure his bowl retains some clout.

For now the Cotton Bowl, like the rest of the college football universe, will wait to see what happens.

"If some of these potential changes allow us other opportunities, we'll look at those," Baker said. "We feel good about our future."

Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

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