Sports

Orange Bowl unveils format for possible ACC opponents

The Orange Bowl announced a 12-year pact with the Atlantic Coast Conference in July.

On Thursday, the South Florida institution unveiled who would play the ACC champ at the end of each season.

Sort of.

In years in which the Orange Bowl doesn’t play host to one of the new BCS semifinal playoff games, the ACC champion will play either a team from the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference or Notre Dame. The Orange Bowl hopes to get at least four semifinal games once the new format starts in 2014.

The Big Ten and SEC, which have separate deals for its champions to play in the Rose and Sugar bowls, have been guaranteed at least three appearances in the Orange Bowl during the 12 years. The Rose and Sugar bowls are also conference “destination’’ bowls and will also host semifinal games.

Notre Dame does not have a set number of appearances over the 12-year contract but will be limited to two trips to Miami.

Notre Dame recently announced it was joining the ACC in all sports save for football — although the Fighting Irish will play at least five of their games against ACC teams starting no later than 2015 depending on when the school can exit the Big East.

The Orange Bowl, currently presented by Discover, has hosted the ACC champion since 2006. The new deal signed between the bowl and the conference, which includes members Miami, Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina, helped keep the bowl in the BCS mix.

The last SEC team to play in the Orange Bowl game was Alabama in 2000; the last Big Ten team to play in the OB was Iowa in 2010. Notre Dame’s previous appearance in the Orange Bowl was when it lost to Florida State in 1996.

The Orange Bowl has been played each year since its debut in 1935. The bowl game moved north to use the Miami Dolphins’ stadium in 1996 with only one return to the actual Orange Bowl stadium — which hosted its final game in 2007 and was demolished in 2008 — in 1999 when the Gators defeated Syracuse.

“The Orange Bowl Committee is truly excited about the completion of our bowl matchup ... at a special time of year in beautiful South Florida,’’ Orange Bowl Committee president and chairman O. Ford Gibson said in a statement.

“The Orange Bowl values our special partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference, as we are looking forward to strengthening our already deep relationships with the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame.”

When the 12-year deal with the ACC was originally announced, it was said that ESPN would televise the bowl game — in nonplayoff years — at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

On Thursday,, ESPN announced that the Orange Bowl would continue to be played in prime time. The first Orange Bowl to be played at night came in 1965 when Texas upset No. 1 Alabama 21-16.

ESPN said the game would be played either on New Year’s Eve or Jan. 1, depending on the new postseason schedule.

ESPN.com cited sources saying the network would spend an average of $55 million per season to televise the bowl with the money being split between the ACC and the conference which is represented.

Notre Dame, the story said, wouldn’t get as much in the two years it competed in the game and would get “a significant amount less.’’

“The opportunity to partner with ESPN to showcase the game on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day provides us with a terrific way for fans to ring in the New Year in South Florida,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said.

Oklahoma (18) and Nebraska (17) have played in the Orange Bowl the most — the game was formerly the designated bowl for the Big Eight champions.

Miami, which played in the first designated Orange Bowl contest in 1935, has played in the game nine times — most recently in 2004 — with Alabama and Florida State tied for fourth-most appearances with eight each.

Sun Life Stadium and the Orange Bowl committee will play host to this year’s BCS national championship game on Jan. 7 — less than a week after the ACC champion plays in the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.

In the future, the championship game will be at a stand-alone site (it’s currently rotated among BCS bowls), although Miami would be able to host and is expected to bid for it.

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