Son Of Weekend Watch List: How the MAC got screwed

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher thought he’d call NCAA football executive Dennis Poppe on Sunday.

“I just wanted to check on the rule,” Steinbrecher said.

The rule in question was adopted by the NCAA in August as a way to keep teams from gaming the system. Last season, UCLA was able to get a bowl waiver despite finishing 6-7 after losing to Oregon in the first Pac-12 title game.

In revamping the bowl system, the NCAA established clear bowl qualification guidelines. If there aren’t enough bowl-eligible teams (70), there is a checklist of qualifiers. The rule stated the NCAA board of directors "was concerned that conferences and bowls could become overcommitted and not account for potential of bowl ineligibility due to factors beyond won-lost records, such as infractions penalties."

OK, except the board made it clear that the third option for eligibility was a 6-7 team. And the only way that option kicked in is if there weren’t enough bowl eligible teams. Coming into the final weekend of the season there are enough bowl-eligible teams (70).

That’s why Steinbrecher was outraged when reached by late Thursday night. Learning that Georgia Tech had filed a waiver request last week and that it was possible it might be granted, Steinbrecher fired off a strongly-worded note to the NCAA.

Not only would his conference be impacted -- he has seven bowl-eligible teams -- there are others. San Jose State, at 10-2, is having its best season in decades in the soon-to-be departed WAC.

"The whole reason the rule was put in place was to handle this (Georgia Tech) situation," Steinbrecher said.

It didn’t. The board met by phone Wednesday to discuss the situation. The waiver was eventually granted internally by the NCAA. The association essentially ignored its own rule. 

"The frustration is, these are the rules," Steinbrecher said from Detroit where his conference championship game will be played Friday night. "Let's play by the rules."

The rule was implemented this year after the NCAA bowl licensing subcommittee allowed the Bruins a waiver in a similar situation last year. USC was ineligible for a bowl. UCLA was essentially the next man up in the Pac-12 South.

The subcommittee has since been disbanded as the NCAA took more direct control over bowl eligibility. The NCAA didn’t want the embarrassment of a bowl team finishing 6-8, like UCLA.

Except that Steinbrecher just happened to find out about the waiver request when he called Poppe on Sunday.

It looks like a case of clear discrimination toward the so-called non-BCS schools. The bowl postseason is market driven. Steinbrecher knows that a sub-.500 Georgia Tech has a lot better chance of being invited to a bowl (probably the Sun) than one of his teams.

The shame of it is that this is one of the best MAC seasons ever. The winner of Friday’s game could gain a BCS bowl berth. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch is getting some Heisman run.

I asked Steinbrecher if he would pursue any legal action. From 72 floors up in a downtown Detroit hotel, his hopes had been shot down. This would be the end of his fight.

The message we’re getting: It’s more important for a BCS school to finish 6-8 than a non-BCS school to get into a bowl.

We’re still waiting for comment from the NCAA. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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