The bowl hopes of Mid-American Conference schools, including Bowling Green and Toledo, suffered a blow Friday when the NCAA ruled that Georgia Tech is eligible to play in a bowl this season.
Georgia Tech is 6-6 entering the ACC title game against Florida State today, and a loss would have made the Yellow Jackets 6-7 and bowl-ineligible based on criteria established by the NCAA in August after UCLA was forced into a similar circumstance a year ago.
Georgia Tech petitioned the NCAA for a "legislative relief waiver" based on the fact that it was forced to play in the league’s title game when Miami of Florida self-imposed a bowl ban. Had the Hurricanes not taken that route, the Yellow Jackets reasoned they would not have played in a 13th game and thus would have been bowl-eligible.
The NCAA agreed with that rationale, saying, "In consideration of the waiver request, staff noted that Georgia Tech finished the regular season with a 6-6 record, which would make the team bowl-eligible before being obligated to play in the conference championship game. This decision is consistent with the waiver provided to UCLA last year under similar conditions."
That certainly didn’t sit well with MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.
"I am disappointed in the NCAA’s decision to issue a waiver," he said. "I could not disagree more with the rationale provided. One of the reasons for the development of the policy covering this matter was to clearly create a selection order to manage just this situation.
"These selection orders were developed with NCAA staff input and approved unanimously by the NCAA Board of Directors last July. To suggest that the NCAA staff or task force working on bowl policy did not contemplate such a circumstance, when this same situation occurred last year, is incorrect. The policy is clear and understandable.
"What is lacking is the willingness to enforce NCAA policy, and that is regrettable. All the Mid-American Conference asks is that the rules that have been approved by the member institutions of the NCAA be enforced. That did not occur in this instance."
Georgia Tech’s admission to the bowl-eligible club alone probably isn’t enough to keep the Falcons or Rockets out of the bowl picture. There now are 71 teams bowl-eligible, and 6-6 Central Michigan is the school most likely to lose a potential bowl bid because of the maneuver.
There are two more Big East schools, Pittsburgh and Connecticut, who need only to win today to become bowl-eligible. That would put MAC and Sun Belt Conference schools in danger of losing a potential bowl bid.
Last year there were two schools, Ball State (6-6) and Western Kentucky (7-5) from the Sun Belt, who did not receive bowl bids despite being eligible. The previous year two MAC schools, an 8-4 Temple squad and Western Michigan (6-6), were denied bowl bids.
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