Has the NCAA backed itself into a corner and does the governing body have no choice but to allow teams with 5-7 records into postseason play?
In April, the NCAA certified an all-time high of 35 bowl games through January 2014. That means 70 of the 120 Division I-A teams will be needed to fill the bowl lineup. Under current NCAA rules, a team must finish 6-6 or better with only one victory against a I-AA opponent to be eligible for the postseason.
Only 71 teams met the criteria the past three seasons. Compounding matters for the next two seasons: the pool of eligible teams has been reduced to 119. USC, which has played in the postseason for nine consecutive years, is banned from bowl play until 2012.
An NCAA official didn't seem concerned in April, telling Brent Schrotenboer of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Historical data indicates that there will be enough bowl-eligible teams; however, the postseason licensing subcommittee will address this issue in more detail as we approach the 2010 season."
With the season entering Week 2, there is still no word from the NCAA on tweaks to the system. The Wiz queried the governing body by email and phone last week, but no one returned our messages. The directors of five bowl games also were contacted and asked if they knew of a contingency plan should the number of eligible teams fall below 70. Two said they weren't aware of a plan, two said to contact the NCAA and one didn't return an email.
In April, speculation centered on the NCAA allowing 6-6 teams with two victories against I-AA opponents to be eligible. Arizona State, Virginia, Syracuse, Ball State and San Jose State — each with two I-AA opponents on the 2010 schedule — fall into this category.
But if changing that rule didn't get the number to 70, the only alternative would appear to be granting teams with 5-7 records entrance into the postseason.
The number of bowl games has skyrocketed in recent years. In 1996, there were only 18. Last season there were 34, but the International Bowl in Toronto went out of business. In its place are the Dallas Football Classic and the Pinstripe Bowl in New York.
Two other bowls were denied a license — the Cure Bowl in Orlando and Christmas Bowl in Los Angeles.
Outside of the top-tier Bowl Championship Series games, teams playing in minor bowls tend to lose money simply because of the way the system works. Once a team accepts an invitation to a bowl game, it agrees to purchase an allotment of tickets. Teams usually fall short of selling their tickets and are stuck with losses that sometimes top $1 million.
Nonetheless, schools continue to seek the pricey image boost from playing in the postseason, and that puts pressure on the NCAA to sanction more games, leading to the threshold of allowing losers entrance into the postseason.