NEW YORK — The bowl system has finally snapped after years of being stretched thin.
Three teams with losing records will be among the 80 playing in a record 40 bowl games over the next month and two teams from the same conference will play each other in a bowl.
This offseason, a task force will study the bowl system, intent on making changes to prevent that from happening again. The NCAA has largely removed itself from the bowl business, allowing conferences, communities and television networks to create postseason games. The NCAA is not looking to take control of the bowls, but everyone agrees adjustments are needed.
“The members are going to have to figure out, what’s the purpose of bowl games?” NCAA President Mark Emmert told reporters Wednesday at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. “Is it a reward for a successful season or is it just another game that we’re going to provide an opportunity for?”
Ten years ago a bit less than 50 percent of the FBS earned a postseason bid. This season, 63 percent of 127 FBS teams will play in bowls, including new games in Florida and Arizona.
The new NCAA football oversight committee was forced to tweak a safety net policy to allow 5-7 teams to be bowl-eligible based on their Academic Progress Rates. That let the Big Ten fill its contracted bowl spots with Nebraska and Minnesota, though the new Arizona Bowl in Tucson ended having to match Mountain West rivals.
Colorado State and Nevada, who play in different divisions and didn’t meet this season, will play Dec. 29. That angered Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson.
“Clearly, the system is broken,” Thompson said in a statement.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby leads the football oversight committee and said the goal of the task force is not specifically to cut bowl games.
“I think the fact is we do have too many bowl games and we have more bowl games waiting in the wings,” Bowlsby said. “But you can’t fault the communities from going and ahead and doing something if they want to. We’re going to have to do a deep dive on it and figure it out.”
Figuring it out won’t be easy. There are some clear disagreements among major players.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said athletic directors in his conference would prefer teams be at least 7-5 to be bowl eligible. Currently, the minimum requirement for bowl eligibility is six victories and a .500 record.
“For the Southeastern Conference, the opportunity for 6-6 teams to participate is important,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.
As many established bowls made deals with Power Five conferences in recent years, Group of Five conferences such as the Mountain West, American Athletic Conference and Mid-American Conference have worked to create bowls to provide postseason opportunities for their members.
Last season, Temple of the American went 6-6 and didn’t go to a bowl game.
South Florida Athletic Director Mark Harlan said it was tough to hear his counterpart at Temple, Patrick Kraft, recount the story of how he told last year’s team it wouldn’t be playing in the postseason.
“We have to make sure 6-6 teams are rewarded,” Harlan said.
Some have suggested drawing a hard line at six victories and not filling spots if there are not enough eligible teams.
“We’re going to have a candid conversation about bowls either going dark, that’s an assumption of risk that they’ll have to understand that there might not be teams, or do you structure a set of expectations, whether it’s some criteria bowls have to meet to be a part of consideration,” Sankey said.
It’s early to speculate on what changes are coming, but some are expected.
“In our society, sometimes we don’t put up a traffic light until there have been a couple of accidents at an intersection,” FBA executive director Wright Waters said during a teleconference with reporters this week. “This may be the opportunity to force that conversation.”
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