From the Golden Football Archives
Big 10 and Pac-8 Cave in
The Big Ten, founded in 1895, had an aversion to bowl games for the first half of its existence. Extending the season through December interfered with exams and increased the commercial­ization of the sport, which presidents struggled to confine within the boundaries of academic priorities.
  • The conference forbade its members from playing in bowl games until 1945.
  • In that year, the Big Ten signed a contract to send its champion to the Rose Bowl to face the winner of the Pacific Coast Conference.
  • The arrangement between the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten, and what is now called the Pac-10 continues to this day. Even though both conferences and the Rose Bowl are part of the BCS, the champions of the two leagues meet in Pasadena unless one or both of them make the BCS Championship Game.

Each year from 1945-1974, only one Big Ten and one Pacific Coast team went to a bowl game. That rule punished some of the best teams in the nation. The most egregious result occurred in 1973 when Michigan finished 10-0-1. However, the tie was with Ohio State, making the Wol­verines and Buckeyes co-champions. The Big Ten ADs chose OSU to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. #6 Michiganstayed home. That same season, #9 UCLA also went nowhere after losing to USC.

Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke and his Pac-8 counterpart, Wiles Hallock, lobbied their schools to open bowl participation to more conference members. They marshalled some powerful arguments.

  • The conferences were passing up a great deal of extra revenue provided by bowl games.
  • Recruiting was hampered because athletes wanted to go to colleges where they would have a better chance of playing in bowl games. Duke felt that recruiting difficulties were the big reason the Big Ten was dismissively called "the Big Two (Michigan and Ohio State) and the Little Eight." Why would an elite player want to go to, say, Indiana knowing that the Hoosiers had little chance of winning the conference and going to the Rose Bowl?
  • Playing in bowl games gave schools prime tv exposure.
  • Bowl game participants got to practice an extra 3-4 weeks.
  • Notre Dame, a school Big Ten members recruited against, had revoked its bowl ban (in effect since the 1925 Rose Bowl) during the 1969 season.

Both conferences agreed to end their post-season limitations starting in 1975. As usual, the conference champs, UCLA and Ohio State, met in the Rose Bowl. However, additional teams enjoyed the bowl experience.

  • Michigan played Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
  • USC took on Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl.
With 6 to 8 more attractive teams available each year, the number of bowl games increased from 10 in 1974 to 15 in 1978. In the latter year, three Big Ten and four Pac-10 teams went bowling. Because of the Rose Bowl's huge payout ($5.2 million to the two teams in 1979), participation in additional bowls gave the two conferences half of all postseason dollars.

Reference: The 50 Year Seduction: How Television Manipulated College Football,
from the Birth of the Modern NCAA to the Creation of the BCS,
Keith Dunnavant

Wayne Duke
Wayne Duke

Wiles Hallock
Wiles Hallock