Scott Ramsey paused for a few seconds, let out a sigh and organized his thoughts before he answered.
Does he like the new four-team football playoff system?
For the president and CEO of the Music City Bowl, that is a loaded question.
“It wasn’t a process we had any decision-making power in,” Ramsey, who also heads up the Nashville Sports Council, said. “So I kind of accepted whenever the presidents and commissioners decided to go with it we were going to have to react to that in the market place to try to maintain our bowl’s level of success. ... I hope there’s not a natural separation of, ‘Hey, it’s playoffs or nothing,’ and the bowls can still thrive.”
Ramsey and bowl chairs across the country are bracing themselves for the trickle-down effect of last week’s approval of a four-team playoff, which begins in 2014 and replaces the unpopular BCS.
“I think every bowl will be impacted to some degree,” he said. “To what degree is still a little bit unknown. I think every bowl is in a waiting game right now.”
The two national semifinal games will rotate among six bowl sites and the title game will rotate to a neutral site, which will be determined through a bid process. Ramsey said it is possible the Nashville Sports Council could host both.
The four BCS bowls — the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar — along with the new Champions Bowl, which pits the Big 12 and SEC champions, are expected to be announced as semifinal sites. That leaves one opening.
The national championship game will go to the highest bidder. Whether the 68,798-seat LP Field could be a real contender is still unknown. Ramsey expects the commissioners to unveil bid requirements —minimum seats, dome, retractable roof, etc. — within the next three to six months.
“If it’s an opportunity for us to bid, we’re certainly going to evaluate that and strongly consider it,” Ramsey said. “Until we know the bid [requirements] it is kind of hard to speculate right now. But we’re going to try to be aggressive as we can to best position Nashville and the bowl to continue to reap benefits for the city. I just don’t know where that insertion in the process is going to be.”
With the top four teams — not just conference champions — chosen by a selection committee, the remaining bowls will be grappling for pecking order in an effort to grab the best remaining teams.
Subsequently, the bowl’s draw could impact ticket sales, hotel bookings and revenue for the city. Currently, the Music City Bowl receives the seventh SEC choice and gets the sixth pick in the ACC. Bowls such as the Gator Bowl, Capitol One Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowl all select SEC teams before the Music City Bowl.
Thus, iff two SEC teams make the four-team playoff field, that leaves slim pickings for those bowls further down the totem pole. Or, if the SEC doesn’t have enough bowl-eligible teams, the Music City Bowl could be forced to pull from another conference. That scenario unfolded in 2005 when Virginia (ACC) played Minnesota (Big 10).
“We expect competition. We’re going to be prepared for that,” Ramsey said. “The new system is certainly something everybody is going to have to react to.”
The financial impact of last December's Music City Bowl between Mississippi State and Wake Forest was more than $22.2 million to the city, according to Sports Council figures.
The bowl, which began in 1998 and is played at LP Field on or around New Year’s Eve, wants to continue its contract with the ACC and SEC beyond the 2013 season.
Since 2006, when the bowl began pairing the two conferences, the economic impact for Nashville has surpassed $20 million in economic impact four times; there have been three sellouts; an average of 40,000 out-of-town guests have visited during the week of the bowl; and the game has drawn more than 3.5 million TV viewers four times.
“We really want to be aggressive to the best we can,” Ramsey said. “We certainly want to make sure the bowl game continues to do what we designed it to do, which is to bring in a lot of out-of-town folks, fill up our city, fill up our stadium and really hopefully showcase our city on a national television platform.”