MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, far right (US Presswire)
But, he probably has a point, because it surely seems the NCAA contradicted its own rules.
In August, the NCAA created a contingency plan if there weren't enough bowl-eligible teams. Here's the first four points to the plan, and again, this is only a contingency plan if not enough teams were eligible for bowl berths:
Under the process approved Thursday, if a bowl has one or more conferences/teams unable to meet their contractual commitments and there are no available bowl-eligible teams, the open spots can be filled — by the bowl sponsoring agencies — as follows:
First pool: Teams that finish 6-6 but would not normally be bowl eligible because they have a win against a Football Championship Subdivison team.
Second pool: A team that has a 6-6 record but beat two FCS teams.
Third pool: A team that finished with a 6-7 record, with the seventh loss being in a conference championship game.
Fourth pool: A team that played 13 games but finished with a 6-7 record.
The third pool is the one that came into play for Georgia Tech. The circumstance was unusual, because a 6-6 Georgia Tech wouldn't have played in the ACC title game if Miami and North Carolina were eligible. And, Georgia Tech could beat Florida State for the ACC championship on Saturday night, earning a bowl berth.
But the spirit of the rule seems clear. The rule was made in case there weren't enough bowl-eligible teams. That was not an issue this year. There were 70 bowl eligible teams for 70 spots when Georgia Tech requested the waiver. Two more, Pittsburgh and UConn, can become bowl eligible with a win on Saturday. The spirit of the rule also gives clear precedent to 6-6 teams over a 6-7 team. Even a 6-6 team with two FCS wins is looked upon more favorably in the rules approved by the Division I Board of Directors than a 6-7 team that lost its conference championship game.
When the rules were voted on, the board went through steps to make sure it clearly outlined that 6-6 teams would get in over teams with seven losses, even if there were unusual circumstances. And then the NCAA totally ignored that when Georgia Tech asked for a favor.
So when MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher released a statement criticizing the NCAA's ruling, it wasn't just sour grapes. He called the NCAA out for not following the rules it set:
"I am disappointed in the NCAA's decision to issue a waiver," Steinbrecher said in the statement. "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 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."
The team most likely to be left out of the bowl picture now is 6-6 Central Michigan, which is from the MAC. If one or both of the Big East teams become eligible, the MAC is in danger of having another eligible team left home.
The problem with this is it once again undermines smaller conferences. There was little chance that Georgia Tech wasn't going to get the benefit of the doubt here. The Yellow Jackets are from a big, BCS automatic qualifying conference. So, the NCAA decided that the spirit of its own rules didn't really apply to this case. That's pretty shameful, considering it just ensured that a bowl-eligible team from its membership will not get the chance to play in a bowl game. That's a heartbreaking turn of events for those players that won't get to experience a bowl game this season.
Ask yourself this: If the same situation was in play for a 6-6 MAC team heading into its conference championship game, do you think the NCAA would have granted it a waiver?
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