In case anyone thought I was just making stuff up regarding Pitt getting sent to the BBVA Bowl in Birmingham, solely for TV. There is this bit of information.
…the BBVA Compass Bowl pitting 6-6 Pitt against 6-6 SMU. That last one’s particularly interesting because, according to multiple sources, the Birmingham game didn’t want the Panthers back for a second straight year, and Pitt was so opposed to the idea it threatened to boycott. Seriously.
So how did that matchup still end up happening? One word: ESPN. Its subsidiary, ESPN Regional, owns six of those low-rung bowls, including the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and BBVA Compass games. And lest anyone tell you otherwise, head honcho Pete Derzis ultimately decides who plays where. He’s the reason Marshall is playing in St. Pete instead of Pittsburgh and why SMU is in Birmingham instead of … somewhere else.
The bowls are purportedly for the “student-athletes,” and arguably they still are in places like Pasadena and Orlando. In Birmingham or St. Petersburg, however, they’re for three hours of television programming, and the teams are ancillary figures.
And as Zeise noted, it is not like the Big East was going to do anything to help Pitt.
The bottom line is Pitt was trying to work something out with the Beef O Brady’s Bowl but the Big East made it pretty clear that they weren’t going to help Pitt’s cause and they basically told Pitt it was headed to the BBVA Compass Bowl because that bowl needed someone who might actually attract a television audience. (Believe it or not, Pitt might not be good at selling tickets, but people will watch the Panthers on TV which makes them attractice to a bowl like this, which exists almost exclusively as cheap programming for ESPN.
That’s part of why Pitt kept ending up on weeknight ESPN showings. We like sitting in our couches — not burning them.