You want to know who just had a really, really good day on Tuesday? South Alabama.
That would be South Alabama, the Sun Belt program so new that it can't actually play for the Sun Belt title. The program that first snapped a football in 2009. The school that is spending 2012 reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Jaguars who could be playing in a bowl this season.
It may happen after Central Florida was hit with a bowl ban Tuesday. The whole world fell apart a bit in terms of college football's postseason on Tuesday when the NCAA hit UCF with the one-year ban. That brings to four the number of teams unable to go to a bowl in 2012 – Central Florida, Ohio State, North Carolina and Penn State.
That also puts conferences and the bowl system on notice. There were only 72 bowl eligible teams last season for the 70 bowl slots. The postseason expanded to 35 bowls in 2010.
You see where we're headed here. That takes four possible bowl eligible teams out of the mix right away. Before the rash of bowl bans, college football was already riding on the edge. One high-ranking bowl official called the situation that developed Tuesday a “crisis.” A crisis that could get worse.
CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm already has projected there won't be enough teams to fill the bowls in 2012.
Plus, there are still the unresolved cases at Miami and Oregon. Miami self-imposed a bowl ban in 2011. For now, it is bowl eligible this season. But with the Nevin Shapiro case still heating up, assume nothing. Oregon is a mystery too. One source told CBSSports the Ducks' penalties should come down during the 2012 season. It's still unclear how serious the NCAA views the third-party influence of Will Lyles and his effect on Oregon's aggressive recruitment of Lache Seastrunk.
As for 2012, there remains the real possibility of six bowl ineligible programs this season. That's an entire division of teams in the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, MAC and ACC. That also means that bowls are going to be screaming for teams and the NCAA is going to have to set some new parameters.
“It's an issue that we're monitoring closely and working with NCAA to develop a backup plan,” said Wright Waters, executive director of the Football Bowl Association.
The big winner in the crisis? Not only South Alabama, but Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and UMass -- officially the four newest members of the Football Bowl Subdivision, but with asterisks. The four are in the second year of the two-year reclassification process from FCS (formerly Division I-AA) to FBS. But they would be bowl eligible this season under one of the contingencies to be discussed Thursday by the NCAA Board of Directors.
It's a coincidence the board had already scheduled that meeting to discuss future bowl eligibility before the UCF penalties.
Among the possibilities the board will consider:
--Allowing a 6-6 team bowl eligibility with a win over an FCS team (Division I-AA) that does not meet scholarship/financial requirements. FBS teams can count one FCS opponent toward bowl eligibility (six wins), but only if that opponent sponsors an average of 90 percent of the 63 scholarships allowed in FCS (56.7 scholarships).
--Allowing in a 6-6 team that had beaten two FCS teams.
--Allowing in a 6-7 team that had lost its seventh game in a conference championship game.
--Allowing in a 6-7 team that played 13 regular-season games.
--Allowing 5-7 teams ranked by APR.
--Allow in a team that is reclassifying.
That's where South Alabama comes in. In its first couple of years (2009-10), the school basically fielded a club team that played a mix of military institutes, Division II and NAIA schools. In 2011, it played as an FCS independent finishing 6-4. One of its best players, Jake Johnson, once led Virginia Tech in tackles against Alabama.
In 2012, the Jags will be in their second year of reclassifying from FCS to FBS. It will play a Sun Belt schedule but not be eligible for the conference title or a bowl. Unless, of course, the NCAA gets desperate.
In June, the NCAA sent a “postseason certification memo” to membership that stated “… without legislative relief or change in policy, if a bowl does not have adequate teams that meet the eligibility criteria, the bowl will not be able to be played in the year it does not have such teams. To date, there are no agreed upon procedures to ensure that a sufficient number of bowl-eligible teams are available for all postseason competition. NCAA bylaws require that a bowl-eligible team have a winning record or a 6-6 record that counts only one contest against an FCS opponent. In recent years, the number of bowl-eligible teams has barely exceeded the number of available spots for bowl participation. Due to academic requirements for postseason eligibility, and that some teams may be ineligible for disciplinary reasons, the number of bowl-eligible teams could be decreased even more. In the coming months the NCAA staff will engage the key stakeholders in postseason football in an attempt to find a solution to this potential problem.”
You might have noticed that the reclassification contingency is way down on the list. But when you were 7-0 three years playing Hargrave Military Academy, it sounds more than encouraging. The Jags, located in Mobile, drew 26,000 for the first-ever game in 2009, an example of that Alabama football madness.
Texas State and Texas-San Antonio are playing in the WAC this season. Texas State, Georgia State and South Alabama will join the Sun Belt in 2013. Texas-San Antonio will join Conference USA that year. Charlotte and Old Dominion have plans to transition to FBS by 2015.
UMass is playing in the MAC this season and will be a full member in 2013.
Officially, there will be 124 teams in FBS this season, up from 120. A four-year moratorium on teams moving up to FBS ended in 2011. Just in time, it seems.