While college football's postseason will receive a significant face-lift next season with the advent of the four-team College Football Playoff, the bigger picture of the entire bowl lineup is slowly starting to come into focus.
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced tie-ins Thursday with seven bowl games. The deals will start in 2014 and run through the 2019 season.
"With some tremendous brands in the league, I think we were able to parlay this into some tremendous agreements," said Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson, a member of the ACC committee that helped determine the bowl lineup.
For bowl purposes, the ACC will grow to 15 teams with the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, and Notre Dame will gain access to the ACC's postseason options.
The league already had announced its partnership with the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The new lineup will also include the Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, Fla.), Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas), Belk Bowl (Charlotte, N.C.), Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.), Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Pinstripe Bowl (New York).
Additionally, in years when the Orange Bowl has a Big Ten team to face the ACC champion, the ACC will get a spot in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The ACC champion, if not one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff, will go to the Orange Bowl in years when the Orange Bowl does not play host to one of the CFP semifinals. If the Orange Bowl plays host to a semifinal, the ACC champion (if not in the playoff) will play in either the Fiesta Bowl or the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
After the College Football Playoff, the Orange Bowl and Capital One Bowl (if applicable), Russell Athletic Bowl will get the first pick of the remaining ACC teams.
Beyond that, the remaining five bowls will be grouped into a pool. League commissioner John Swofford will work with the eligible schools and other conference commissioners to determine which destinations and matchups work best for each school.
"I think the uniqueness of it is this pool of bowls that we were able to put together here, which means that we can avoid repeat appearances," Pederson said.
"We can select better matchups. I think it gives the commissioner a lot more leeway to really put good games together."
Pederson specifically noted that last year, there was a possibility that Pitt could travel to New York to play in the Pinstripe Bowl against West Virginia in a Backyard Brawl rematch. Since the Panthers finished behind Syracuse in the Big East standings, though, the Orange went instead.
Pitt, meanwhile, went to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., for the third year in a row.
"I think one of the biggest complaints people had was the repeat matchups or repeat appearances in certain bowls," Pederson said.
"Certainly, we've been through that, but a lot of people have been. For your fans, that takes away from their excitement if they've been to a place two years in a row."
Other details, such as how exactly the bowl payouts will be structured, are still unresolved. There were discussions at the ACC spring meetings in May about possibly reorganizing the payouts to reward teams that finish higher in the conference standings.
The league also hopes to announce more future bowl tie-ins soon. Pederson did not have a specific number they were shooting for, but said they hope to have "as many as possible."
"With the quality of the league, and a 15-team league, there's going to be a lot of teams going to these bowl games," he said.
"We wanted to try to make sure that we ensured that everybody would have a great opportunity."mobilehome - pittsports
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.