ESPN's Brian Bennett is reporting that the Big East is likely to sign on with the Champs Sports Bowl for its #2 bowl slot, and the Sun Bowl for #3 (dropping Meineke back down to #4).
If this ends up happening, it would fulfill one major conference objective of finding a quality #3 game. Having an exclusive tie to Champs (they'll have a chance to get Notre Dame once in the four year span) is an upgrade over the current hybrid Gator/Sun/ND 2 out of 4 arrangement. Bennett also reports that the Champs is increasing its payout over what the Gator Bowl offered in the last contract. However, it remains unclear whether the matchup with the #4 ACC team will change, or where that payment stands with respect to what the Gator Bowl will pay the Big Ten (Stewart Mandel reported yesterday that the Gator payout was increasing to $3m). Multiple reports suggest that the Sun Bowl game will be against the #4 Pac-10 team.
I'll have to wait for the final details, but still maintain that the conference made a big mistake if they turned down four years with the Gator Bowl, with the option of selecting Notre Dame twice in that period. Notre Dame has only played in the Gator Bowl twice under the current deal. Look at it this way: either the Domers will be mediocre, or the BCS will snap them up if they actually deserve to go to the Gator Bowl. The odds of them actually playing in the game are rather slim, so that gamble would have worked in the Big East's favor.
Bennett did not mention any deal to rotate the Big East's #2 team between the Champs and Sun. Absent a swap, adding the Sun would be a great addition. With another quality bowl in place, Rutgers would not have been so hosed in 2006 and 2008.
All of this information is still tenative, and subject to change. There's some reshuffling right now around the country. As previously reported, the Alamo Bowl is poised to jump in the pecking order with a much larger payout, and the Pac-10 will be the primary beneficiary of that move. The Insight Bowl is set to enjoy a leap in prestige as well. If you're wondering what the Big Ten will do to replace their Alamo bid, ESPN's Adam Rittenberg is speculating about them getting in bed with a revamped Texas Bowl.
I'll hold my invective against the Big East conference leadership and Providence College for over the weekend, but it's coming if Champs does replace the Gator Bowl.