"That's not true," Rose Bowl CEO Mitch Dorger said from his home Wednesday night. "We have not made any final decisions at all. I think some people have gone out on a limb and are making assumptions. We will make our decision on Sunday."The LA Times has a pretty good breakdown of the Rose Bowl possiblities this morning, speculating that Michigan vs LSU is the most likely matchup. That's probably how it's going to shake out. But there's one thing that everyone's assuming: that Michigan is definitely going to Pasadena, given the long-standing ties between the Integer and the Rose. But should we automatically assume that? Considering the fact that...
1) ND, with its well-travelled fans and high TV ratings in tow, is the darling of the bowl set, and
2) Michigan has already been to the Rose two of the last three years, and
3) nobody wants a ND-UM rematch, and
4) the Rose has carte blanche to pick its teams,
maybe an LSU-Notre Dame matchup is more attractive to the Rose? Believe it or not, I chatted with two different people "in the know" this week who said it's at least being considered by the Rose Bowl committee.
The Rose picking ND over Michigan? Chuckle. We'd have screwed them over twice.
Update: Eric Hansen also has some more food for thought along these lines in the SBT today, including some more quotes from the Rose Bowl CEO:
"First of all in general, the BCS is not enthusiastic about rematches," Dorger said via telephone Wednesday. "In fact, they specifically tell us to avoid those if at all possible. In most cases, there's not as much enthusiasm for a rematch, particularly if you're going to have to spend thousands of dollars to travel out to see it. I think that's a big factor.
"One of the other things you have to think about is Michigan will be here potentially for the third time in four years. So breeding enthusiasm in Michigan has got to be a big consideration. You can fill in the blanks."
"We do look at TV ratings very closely, because TV ratings drive our brand identity," Dorger said. "When we go to renegotiate our contract in the coming years, we're going to have to lay our TV ratings on the line. So yes, we're looking at good TV ratings."
"Yet in the final analysis, we need to pick what's best for the Rose Bowl," he said. "We're just not sure what that is yet."