Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Robert Shelton talks about the new college football playoff system that’s set to begin in 2014 and what it could mean for the Fiesta Bowl.
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.
Ted Simons: Starting in 2014, a new playoff system will be used to crown a national champion in college football. The four-team playoff was announced yesterday by University presidents who sit on the BCS presidential oversight committee. Our next guest was once a member of that committee. Former U of A president Robert Shelton is now the Fiesta Bowl's executive director, and he's here to tell us about the new playoff system and what it could mean for the Fiesta Bowl. Good to see you again.
Robert Shelton: Thank you. Always a pleasure.
Ted Simons: What changes, that sounds like there's a monumental change here, what actually changed?
Robert Shelton: Big changes. Some we know about, some are going to be determined in the months ahead. First of all, there's going to be a four-team seeded playoff. In addition, this consortium, we don't have a name for it, will have four other bowls. Six bowls total, 12 teams. And there will be a committee of wise gentlemen, maybe a lady but probably mostly gentlemen, who will decide on these 12 slots, who will assign these slots.
Ted Simons: OK. Let's get to some particulars here. When would these games be played?
Robert Shelton: They've decided these games, there will be six games, three would be played on New Year's eve, three would be played on New Year's day. So they're trying to recapture those two time slots for college football.
Ted Simons: And you've got a revolving door, kind of a sixth potential site, it just moves, changes every year?
Robert Shelton: Correct. There will be special arrangements I'm sure for the Rose Bowl and this new entity called the champions bowl, that is the SEC and the big 12 champion together. Basically what you'll have is for these six bowls, once every three years you're going to have a semi final. Because there will be two semi finals, six bowls, once every three years, you'll have a semi final. In the other two years, this committee of wise individuals will assign top 12 teams, there may be an exception, but basically top 12 teams to play in the other four bowls. Keeping in mind the Rose Bowl has first disabilities with the Pac 12 and the big 10, and the orange bowl probably with the ACC. So what we're going to see is I think in every year, whether it's a semi or the other assigned bowls, the other assigned teams, we're going to see a matchup here in the valley of the sun that has two teams in the top 12. I think it's fantastic.
Ted Simons: So the Fiesta Bowl is a part of this change. Correct?
Robert Shelton: That is correct. What will happen is, the four current BCS bowls, orange, fiesta, sugar, and rose, by our contracts have the first right of entry. So what will happen is, this BCS entity, whatever we're going to call it, will come up with certain criteria in terms of your willingness to put on the game, so forth. We'll meet those criteria and then we'll be part of the six-bowl rotation.
Ted Simons: What about the title game? Is that going to be in a rotation, or is that a different beast all together?
Robert Shelton: It is a different beast. They're going to bid out the championship game. Now, the valley of the sun can certainly bid for that game. Think of Super Bowl. Think of an NCAA men's basketball final four. But the Fiesta Bowl by itself I don't think has the wherewithal, the breadth to bid on a championship game. It would take involvement by the municipalities, certainly Glendale, Phoenix, Scottsdale, as to those organizations to determine whether we can bid on that game. We don't know yet what the cost of that will be and whether it's something we want to do.
Ted Simons: That's a work in progress starting from ground up.
Robert Shelton: Exactly right. But we have experience here in aggregating that kind of wisdom and power, witness we have won the bid for the 2015 Super Bowl.
Ted Simons: Indeed. Who decides, who determines these four semi finalists?
Robert Shelton: Well, it will be this wise committee. Again --
Ted Simons: Who's on this wise committee?
Robert Shelton: They haven't named them yet. Some people have joke who'd would want to be on it? I imagine it will be commissioners or former commissioners, athletic directors, people who know the game, who will have the time to watch and see the teams. They will be given certain criteria to take into consideration. Such as, of course, the win-loss record, the strength of schedule, and what will be really advantageous for all six bowls is, I think they're going to take into consideration geographic factors. So that the University that plays and the fans that come from that University to say the Fiesta Bowl, they're not going to have to travel 3,000 miles, they'll make sure there's a reasonable match with the travel distance and the team that's are seeded into these different bowl games.
Ted Simons: So we know who decides the four games. We have a general idea. Who decides who decides?
Robert Shelton: Who puts together this wise committee?
Ted Simons: Yes.
Robert Shelton: It will be the commissioners recommending and then to the presidential oversight committee.
Ted Simons: OK. An even wiser committee.
Robert Shelton: We hope so. I know almost all of them, so I would agree they're all wise.
Ted Simons: What factors will be -- we talked -- you referred to this, what factor is considered? Is there an automatic qualifying situation like there was with the BCS?
Robert Shelton: They've gotten rid of the automatic qualifying moniker, that will not be the case. There will of course be relationships, contractual relationships for some of the bowls. Rose Bowl with the Big 10, and the Pac 12. But there may be years, there will definitely be years, let's say the Rose Bowl host as semi, when you won't have teams from those two leagues. What if Arizona State is ranked second in the country, I'm playing to the locals here, let's say Arizona state is ranked second and they're the Pac 12 champ. But the number three ranked team comes -- is Arkansas. From the sec. So the Rose Bowl on would host those two teams. Where does the big 10 champion go in that case? I would say we'd love them here in the Fiesta Bowl?
Ted Simons: Indeed.
Robert Shelton: They're all -- there are all kinds of scenarios.
Ted Simons: My last question, how do you keep -- you mentioned you've got the four semi finalist, but you've also got 12 teams. There are eight other teams who will not than playing for a national championship no matter what. Playing in bowl games that will not be involved in a national championship race. How do you keep those bowl games relevant, how do you keep the regular season relevant?
Robert Shelton: I think you keep -- you keep the bowl games relevant because this committee is going to be choosing from among the top 12 teams in the country. So you're going to get great matchups. Number one. This is going to be a set of six elite bowls. It doesn't mean the other bowl aren't important, but this is going to be the next incarnation of the BCS. I think the people that put this together, the commissioners, and then the presidents, I think they were very aware of the value of the regular season, and that's why we're going to a four-team playoff, and not going to eight, 16, 32 that would then render the regular season as sadly it has in basketball, somewhat of a yawner. I think they've hit exactly the right compromise, perspective on what they've put together. There are a lot of details to be worked out.
Ted Simons: And we'll see how those details work out, but I think anyone who is a college football fan finds this encouraging.
Robert Shelton: They should.
Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Always a pleasure.
Robert Shelton: Thank you. Be sure and buy Fiesta Bowl and insight bowl tickets or valley of the sun bowl tickets. They're still available. We're going to get the number one pick again this year. You saw what we did last year with Oklahoma state and Stanford
Ted Simons: You got a commercial spot in there.
Robert Shelton: Darn right.
Robert Shelton:Executive Director, Fiesta Bowl;