Minnesota and Nebraska were two of the three teams to receive a bowl invitation despite a 5-7 record last season. A new amendment to the bowl eligibility rule could prevent something like that from reoccurring in the future.
The NCAA’s Division I Council announced on Wednesday that all 6-6 bowl eligible teams must be selected to a bowl before any 5-7 team can be considered. This prevents bowl game organizers from seeking out ineligible Power 5 schools (such as Minnesota and Nebraska) instead of actually eligible mid-major programs.
Well, what happens if every 6-6 team is picked, but there are still spots available? That’s where the second part of the new rule comes in, and it involves academics (gasp!).
Each 5-7 team vying for a bowl bid will be prioritized based on the highest multiyear Academic Progress Rate for the most recent reported year. If there’s a tie, the school with the highest APR for the most recent single year will get preference. Those qualifying schools will then get to pick which bowl game to attend. This process is to take effect for the upcoming 2016-17 season.
This rule ensures that a team that wins at least six games will qualify for a bowl game (barring a surplus of 6-6 teams), regardless of conference affiliation. It also means any team that falls short of .500 will only be considered for any potential vacancies if its academic performance meets NCAA standards.
Only 77 schools were bowl-eligible last season, leaving three open spots for ineligible teams to fill. That’s where Minnesota, Nebraska and San Jose State came into play. The Gophers were selected to play in the Quick Lane Bowl and defeated Central Michigan, 21-14. The Huskers played UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl and upset the Bruins, 37-29. San Jose State also won the Cure Bowl, 27-16, over Georgia State.
The NCAA’s newest rule could put an end to that, however. It gives more opportunities to the little guys in mid-major conferences to qualify for bowl games, while forcing programs on the outside looking in to take a hard look at where it stands academically.
Essentially, the NCAA is saying there are two ways to make a bowl game:
1. Win six games
2. If you don’t win six games, hit the books.