The field will look the same, with the giant red rose and green petals painted over the 50-yard line.
The difference will be in homes in Southern California, and perhaps more important, in the snowbound Midwest and Northeast, where televisions will turn to . . .
The Rose Bowl, presented by MasterCard.
Or by McDonald's.
Or by . . . who knows?
But not the McRose Bowl.
The game will add a sponsor's tagline for 1999, one of several things that will be different in the Arroyo Seco next Jan. 1. The Rose Bowl game will cost more to attend, have fewer seats available and might not match teams from the Pacific 10 and Big Ten.
Most of the changes are the result of the deal negotiated by the Rose Bowl with ABC television and the super alliance, a group of four bowls, seven conferences and Notre Dame that aims to crown a national college football champion.
In becoming part of the four-bowl rotation to host a game between the top two teams in the polls, the Rose Bowl traded away part of its exclusivity.
Long a holdout in the commercialism game that bowls have played for years, Pasadena will host the 1999 "Rose Bowl, presented by [your company here]," for several million dollars.
If neither conference has a team ranked first or second, the Pac-10 and Big Ten will have teams in the game, as they have for 50 years. Otherwise, there will be some new faces in town.
One of those will be a presenting sponsor.
"We will not have a title sponsor," said Jack French, executive director of the Rose Bowl. "That was made very clear. We will have a presenting sponsor with a minimal physical presence and minimal signage."
That will allow the Rose to keep some distance from the Nokia Sugar Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and FedEx Orange Bowl, its partners in the super alliance.
"We will not be changing the logo, and there will not be a sign inside the stadium for the presenting sponsor," said French, whose committee negotiated the terms with ABC, which will carry all four games and was the driving force behind the super alliance.
ABC, which has carried the Rose Bowl since 1989, obliged, in part because without the Rose and its Pac-10 and Big Ten partners, the super alliance--the network has begun calling it the "National College Football Championship Series"--will not work, as was shown this year when Michigan and Nebraska shared the national championship.
"We agreed to [the Rose Bowl conditions] because it is not in their best interests, nor is it in our best interests either [to insist on a title sponsorship]," said Jon Litner, vice president of programming for ABC sports.
"The last thing we want to do is taint the tradition, the history and the integrity of the Rose Bowl."
The first thing ABC wants to do is make a financial nut that guarantees each of the four games $19 million in TV revenue per season for the four seasons of the contract.
To raise the $304 million to buy the four-game, four-season package, which has also a three-year option to continue, ABC also bought the marketing rights to the bowls. In that, it claimed the right to sell a presenting sponsorship, which enhances the value of the commercials on the telecasts by giving the sponsor more frequent mention. Announcers will not merely say that they are covering "the Rose Bowl," but instead will mention the presenting sponsor at every opportunity.
The network also will cross-market the game, so that sponsors of the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls will have commercials during all four games.
It almost happened this year.
"There was some talk of a presenting sponsor for this year's game," French said. "ABC had talked with some people about it [MasterCard and McDonald's were mentioned], but they decided that they didn't want to do it for just one year [rather than the four years of the contract]."
"We have a desire to get the money in the hands of the universities," said Harriman Cronk, chairman of the Tournament of Roses football committee. "I'm not afraid of [an intrusion by a presenting sponsor]. To some people, maybe they think we have sold out, but we'll still just be keeping approximately 13% [of the total revenue] to run the game and the other 87% will be going to the two conferences [with teams in the game]."
The Rose Bowl will pay about $9.5 million each to the Pac-10 and Big Ten for last week's game, in which Michigan beat Washington State, 21-16.
That is about 87% of monies generated by ticket sales of approximately $7.5 million, plus the $14.5 million ABC paid to televise the game and concession and other ancillary sales.
The Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls that were part of the former bowl alliance paid approximately $8.2 million a team.
The payouts will rise to $11.5-12 million a team for each of the four bowls next year, said Southeastern Conference Commissioner Roy Kramer, who also heads the super alliance.