Back in 2015, the NCAA passed a rule saying football teams with five wins could be bowl eligible, citing a growing number of postseason games and the all too realistic possibility that there wouldn’t be enough teams who won half their games to fill them. In the event there weren’t enough, the NCAA would start with the teams with the highest APR at five wins and work their way down the list to find ones to fill out the games. Yeah, sub-.500 teams in the postseason seemed lame, but the NCAA was at least handing it to teams who performed well academically (“important” to them), the schools get a little extra exposure, some teams get some extra practices they weren’t expecting, and the players get some nifty bowl swag. Everyone wins!
Except the Pac-12. They, apparently, would prefer it if they didn’t.
Today, the conference presidents passed a rule that bars five-win teams from being eligible for the postseason because ... I don’t know. I really don’t!
Bowl games can be expensive for schools but most don’t take a loss by going. The ten extra practices you get can usually only be beneficial besides the potential for a fluke injury to an important player. Your institution generally gets some good “branding” and “exposure” and other marketing buzz words because most bowls are not aired against other games (unless you’re the Pac-12 and you allow two of your biggest bowls to be scheduled AT THE SAME FRICKIN’ TIME). Bowls usually occur at the end of an academic term so it’s time for finals but I’m not sure there’s data that suggests the grades of student-athletes slip appreciably because they’re distracted during finals.
Oh, and no Pac-12 team, in the three years that five win teams have been eligible, has been selected for the postseason. The Pac-12 presidents, on a recommendation from a subcommittee of their athletic directors, decided to go ahead and fix a problem that didn’t exist.
So ... what the hell is the deal here?
Bowl bonuses paid out to coaches? Speaking only for Washington State, Mike Leach gets $75,000 if his team makes it to a non-”BCS” bowl; defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys gets about $52,000 for a similar game. Without knowing the particulars of how much money a school “makes” from a bowl game, I can’t imagine paying out an additional $125,000 or so is a prohibitive enough expense, even for WSU.
Academic concerns? Again, I’ve never seen data to indicate academic performance slips because of the additional time on the practice field and out of the classroom. It could be that the data just doesn’t exist and I’d certainly be willing to change my mind if it indicated otherwise but it doesn’t seem like a rigor the student-athletes and academic support staff can’t handle.
So, legitimately, what’s the deal? Did you not want to be embarrassed by a five win team accepting a postseason bid? There is the whole thing where they can just ... not! You did know that, right? But the Cal Golden Bears probably reeeeeeeally would’ve enjoyed those extra practices while they’re trying to rebuild. The Colorado Buffaloes are probably headed the other direction for a year or two but more practice for a young team doesn’t hurt!
Or Cal could’ve just Cal’d and said the players need to take their finals and Mike McIntyre could’ve just called it a year after losing four of their last five. Like I said, “Thanks but no thanks” is an option!
I really can’t find a good reason for why this was done. What has happened instead though is the Pac-12 Conference, very publicly, found another way to embarrass itself.
Remember this from earlier? Or how about having six extra losses in conference play just ... because. Oh, oh, there’s this too! There’s this long running bug-a-boo that won’t resolve itself for another five years. Speaking of television, no one can see the dang games anyway (much to Chris Petersen’s correct yet poorly delivered point) and no one is watching your network.
Oh, and your conference commissioner makes more than any of his peers and his staff is the highest paid of all the major conferences!
If someone can think of why the president’s decided this was a good idea, I’m all ears. From where I’m sitting though, the conference found another way to shut off a revenue and branding stream for no reason whatsoever.