Looks like the Gator Bowl wants to get the Big XII in the mix, at the expense of more Big East participation. The upshot, according to this article, seems to be that ND will be limited to just one appearance in the Gator over the next four years.
The Gator Bowl Association's next four-year contract could match up teams from the Big 12, the Big East or Notre Dame against the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Times-Union has learned.Feels like the walls just closed in a little tighter. Keep in mind that under the old Big East arrangement, the Gator Bowl could select Notre Dame whenever it wanted; this limits our potential participation significantly.
The proposal, if ratified, would begin with the Jan. 1, 2007 game at Alltel Stadium. It would enable the Gator Bowl to invite a Big 12 team for two years, a Big East team for two years, or bypass a Big East team once to select independent Notre Dame if the Irish are bowl-eligble and not in a Bowl Championship Series game.
For non-BCS bowls, Notre Dame is part of the Big East and bound by agreements reached by that conference.
The Big 12, Big East and the Gator Bowl executive board have not yet finalized the deal, but officials of the conferences said an announcement about their bowl affiliations could come as early as this week.
The commissioners of the Big 12 and Big East have verbally agreed to the deal, said 2006 Gator Bowl chairman Mike Hartley...
If the agreement is passed, the Gator Bowl would join the Cotton, Holiday, Alamo and Champs Sports Bowls among the Big 12 affiliates. Among the teams playing in those games in recent years: Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas Tech...
The major sticking point is the conference's relationship with Notre Dame. For the Big East to remain affiliated, GBA officials still wanted access to Notre Dame. Initially, the GBA wanted the Notre Dame option in any given year, if the Big East remained with the Gator Bowl, but Hartley said that position has been softened with the addition of the Big 12 to the picture.
"We don't need to demand the access to Notre Dame in all four years of the contract, since we've got the chance to get Big 12 teams such as Texas, Nebraska, Kansas State or Colorado," he said.
Attendance averaged more than 72,000 in Notre Dame's two appearances in the Gator Bowl: 2003 against North Carolina State and 1999 against Georgia Tech.
"You can assume that any agreement with the Big East involves the option of taking Notre Dame when it is not in the BCS and bowl-eligible," Smith said.
Lots more to shake out on the Bowl front for ND, of course, but for now our options are slightly scaled back.