|A bowl game after a 6-6 season is a ray of light for some programs, like Iowa State in 2011. (Getty Images)|
DALLAS -- For the past six seasons, college football teams have only needed to finish 6-6 to earn a bowl berth. However, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the 6-6 requirement is "not all positive," while Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said he's "concerned" it "dilutes the equity and specialness of being in a bowl."
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson was more direct.
"I love [having to be] 7-5," Thompson said. "I think you have to have deserving teams."
Thompson is not alone in believing 6-6 teams don't deserve a bowl berth.
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CBSSports.com recently spoke to Delany, Scott, Thompson and the other FBS commissioners in Dallas about whether bowl eligibility should be increased to require seven victories, or a winning record, when the new BCS and bowl cycle starts in 2014.
There was not much support for staying at 6-6, and the commissioners said they want to thoroughly discuss the possibility of implementing the "winning record" requirement for bowl teams in 2014. The discussions are expected to heat up later this month when the commissioners meet again in Dallas and then in late April in Hollywood, Fla.
"It's a good time to take a step back and revisit how many teams are participating in bowls," Scott said. "For some [teams], a 6-6 season is a tremendous accomplishment. For others, it would be a really weak one."
Until the 2006 season, teams played 11-game regular seasons and schools needed at least a 6-5 record to be bowl eligible. In 2006 a 12th regular-season game was added and bowl eligibility was lowered to 6-6. Four bowls were added to compensate for the larger pool of bowl-eligible teams.
"Some bowl partners probably like [the 6-6 rule], some athletic directors probably like it and there are some presidents that like it," Delany said. "But we have some experience that we can judge it, and it's not all positive."
Since 2006, nearly 15 percent of the 404 bowl teams did not have a winning record. In the past two seasons, nearly one-fifth of the bowl field (27 of the 140 bowl teams) was 6-6.
"I hear more support for going back to [a winning record] than I've heard in years," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "It's a legit point of discussion right now.
"There is a growing number to discuss it, and give it a full vetting. In the past that generally has not been the case. There seems to be receptiveness from the top level of the bowls through the whole system to take a fresh look at it and evaluate it."
The biggest consideration in increasing bowl eligibility from six to seven wins is that there would not be enough teams to fill the 35 bowls, meaning some bowls would be discontinued.
This would greatly impact ESPN, which -- along with ABC -- broadcasts 33 of the 35 bowl games. ESPN also owns and operates seven of the bowls. ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined comment about how requiring seven wins for bowl teams would affect ESPN.
"It's a very interesting conversation because 6-6 means different things to different teams," acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said. "Teams like Vanderbilt and Iowa State got to bowl games [last year] at 6-6, but Oklahoma's not going to like going to a bowl at 6-6.
"Some of it depends on where you are at times -- sometimes a 6-6 bowl game is a heck of a boost for a program. I think that horse has left the stable. How many bowl games are you going to eliminate?"
Neinas also suggested the bowl pool could be reduced even further by schools that don't meet minimum Academic Progress Rate (APR) requirements and are prohibited from postseason play.
New Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said he was opposed to the 6-6 rule when it was established and is in favor of changing bowl eligibility to require a winning record. However, he acknowledges there's an issue in what to do with the bowl games that might be eliminated.
"We took the cap off the bottle six years ago when we went to 6-6 and allowed those news bowls to be created," Benson said. "Those new bowls wouldn't exist [if a winning record were required]. How do you put the cap back on it?"
MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also said he favors seven wins for bowl eligibility, but he hasn't discussed it with his member schools.
"It's a fun conversation," Steinbrecher said. "I think there should be a winning record to play in a bowl, perhaps with exceptions carved out for folks who maybe haven't been to a bowl in a long, long time."
SEC commissioner Mike Slive and Big East commissioner John Marinatto declined comment until the group had a chance to discuss it in greater detail.
Thompson, however, doesn't believe a 6-6 team with one win against a FCS opponent deserves a bowl bid.
"A first year coach revamping a program that goes 6-6 is so much different than a 6-6 coach that just got fired or they want to get rid of him," Thompson said. "That's the challenge. Personally I think 7-5 is where we ought to be."
Scott, whose league featured 6-7 UCLA getting a waiver to play in a bowl game last season, worried that the "specialness" of bowl games is diminishing. Some have suggested fewer bowls and tougher standards to get bowl eligible would help the overall bowl system by increasing television ratings and the values of the bowls.
"I do have a concern we have to be careful not to dilute what is fundamentally a very special product," Scott said. "There's a lot of equity and specialness about [the bowls]. I would hate if by having broadened the number of teams that could participate it could, over time, dilute the equity and specialness of being in a bowl.
"That is something I'm concerned about."