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Legal Commentary

: LawPundit

BCS Bowl Matchups and the BCS Eligibility Provisions in the College Football Bowl Selection Procedure

By Andis Kaulins

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Even in sports, also in college football, it all comes down to the legal paragraphs.

TEN BCS TEAMS ARE SELECTED for the BCS Bowls by the eligibility provisions of the BCS Selection Procedures.

The Eligibility Provisions of the BCS Selection Procedures read as follows (LawPundit has added emphasis where required and has also added the material in brackets in orange script to help in the explanation of the provisions):

"Automatic Qualification, At-Large Eligibility and Selection Procedures, 2007-2010 Games

Automatic Qualification

1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings shall play in the National Championship Game. [If, for example, Florida beats Alabama or vice versa in the SEC championship game and Oklahoma (or Texas) beats Missouri in the Big 12 championship game, there is little doubt that the winners will be ranked as the top two teams in the final BCS Standings. If Missouri were to upset Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, then Texas would probably be ranked No. 2. If Missouri were to upset Texas in the Big 12 championship game, then Oklahoma would probably be ranked No. 2 in the final rankings.]

2. The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences will have automatic berths in one of the participating bowls after the 2008 through 2013 regular seasons. [ACC = winner of the Boston College vs. Virginia Tech championship game, Big East = Cincinnati, Big Ten = Penn State, Big 12 = winner of the Oklahoma (or Texas) vs. Missouri championship game, Pac-10 = USC if it beats UCLA, SEC = winner of the Florida vs. Alabama championship game]

3. The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings [this applies this season to both undefeated Utah and undefeated Boise State], or,
B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls. [currently, undefeated Ball State qualifies under this provision, since it is ranked 15th, one slot ahead of Cincinnati, ranked 16th, which is automatically qualified for a BCS berth as Big East champion, and six slots ahead of Boston College and even more ahead of unranked Virginia Tech, one of which will be ACC champion - in other words, Utah, Boise State and Ball State this season thus far all qualify for a BCS berth, except for the limitation set forth in the next provision....]

No more than one such team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference shall earn an automatic berth in any year. (Note: a second team may be eligible for at-large eligibility as noted below.) If two or more teams from those conferences satisfy the provisions for an automatic berth, then the team with the highest finish in the final BCS Standings will receive the automatic berth, and the remaining team or teams will be considered for at-large selection if it meets the criteria. [Utah is highest ranked so that it will receive the one automatic BCS berth this year for all those conferences, while Boise State and Ball State thus DO NOT qualify this year for an automatic BCS berth under this provision and must see if they can qualify for an at-large selection, as discussed below.]

4. Notre Dame will have an automatic berth if it is in the top eight of the final BCS Standings. [Notre Dame is 6-6 and unranked but is eligible for a normal non-BCS bowl]

5. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4, and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier, provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game. [This year this could apply to any of the four teams Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas]

6. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 5, and if no team qualifies under paragraph No. 5 and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 4 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game. [This year this could apply to any of the four teams Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas]

At-Large Eligibility

If there are fewer than 10 automatic qualifiers, then the bowls will select at-large participants to fill the remaining berths. [That is the case this season.] An at-large team is any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible and meets the following requirements:

A. Has won at least nine regular-season games, and
B. Is among the top 14 teams in the final BCS Standings. [For undefeated teams, these critera are clearly satisfied by Boise State but are not yet satisfied by Ball State at 15th position unless - as is likely - it vaults forward at least one spot into 14th place in the final standings due to the losses by Georgia, ranked 11th, to Georgia Tech, by Oklahoma State, ranked 13th, to Oklahoma, and by Missouri, ranked 14th, to Kansas, which should drop one or more of those teams to a position below Ball State in the BCS Standings. Accordingly, both Boise State and Ball State will most surely be eligible for a BCS at-large berth once the final BCS Standings are issued. Also eligible for BCS under this provision is Ohio State, ranked 10th, one spot BEHIND Boise State, and also TCU, ranked 14th. Georgia, Oklahoma State and Missouri - ranked 11, 12 and 13 all lost, so that there will be some shifting here. In any case, when the last BCS spot is to be filled, the highest ranked team among the at-large candidates will be Boise State, but they probably have to reckon that the BCS bowls, looking at the money side of the issue and the much greater fan base, will select Ohio State instead of the Broncos. We are not sure what such considerations have to do with actually selecting a national champion. After all, no one has beaten Boise State yet this year, but they will surely be subject to the power of the Big 10 on this issue. ]

No more than two teams from a conference may be selected, regardless of whether they are automatic qualifiers or at-large selections, unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings. [Again, what does this have to do with selecting a legitimate champion? This makes it nearly impossible for Texas Tech to get a BCS berth, since Oklahoma and Texas precede them in the BCS as the two teams from the Big 12 Conference. The Red Raiders may be 7th ranked, but for BCS purposes they could be 70th. ]

If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings subject to the two-team limit noted above and also subject to the following: (1) if any conference has two or more teams in the top 14, then two of those teams must be selected and (2) from the teams ranked 15-18, a bowl can select only a team from a conference that has fewer than two teams in the top 14.

If expansion of the pool to 18 teams does not result in 10 teams eligible for selection, then the pool shall be expanded by blocks of 4 teams until 10 eligible teams are available subject to the two-team limit noted above and also subject to the following: (1) if any conference has two or more teams in the top 14, then two of those teams must be selected and (2) from the teams ranked 15 or lower, a bowl can select only a team from a conference that has fewer than two teams in the top 14.

Relative to the two preceding paragraphs, all teams ranked in the top 14, other than those from conferences which have already had two teams selected, must be included in the bowl selections.

Note: in order to participate in a BCS Bowl game, a team (i) must be eligible for post-season play under the rules of the NCAA and, if it not an independent, under the rules of its conference and (ii) must not have imposed sanctions upon itself prohibiting participation in a post-season game for infractions of the rules of the NCAA or the rules of its conference.

Team-Selection Procedures

The bowls will select their participants from two pools: (1) automatic qualifiers, all of which must be selected, and, (2) at-large teams, if fewer than 10 teams qualify automatically. [Note that a particular at-large team does not "have" to be selected.] The following sequence will be used when establishing pairings:

1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings will be placed in the National Championship Game ("NCG").

2. Unless they qualify to play in the NCG, the champions of selected conferences are contractually committed to host selected games:

Atlantic Coast Conference-Orange Bowl
Big Ten Conference-Rose Bowl
Big 12 Conference-Fiesta Bowl
Pac-10 Conference-Rose Bowl
Southeastern Conference-Sugar Bowl

3. If a bowl loses a host team to the NCG, then such bowl shall select a replacement team from among the automatic-qualifying teams and the at-large teams before any other selections are made. If two bowls lose host teams to the NCG, each bowl will get a replacement pick before any other selections are made. In such case, the bowl losing the No. 1 team gets the first replacement pick, and the bowl losing the No. 2 team gets the second replacement pick. If the Rose Bowl loses both the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions to the NCG, it will receive two replacement picks.

A bowl choosing a replacement team may not select any of the following:

A. A team in the NCG;
B. The host team for another BCS Bowl;
C. When two bowls lose host teams, then the bowl losing the number one team may not select a replacement team from the same conference as the number two team, unless the bowl losing the number two team consents.

4. After steps No. 1, 2 and 3 have been completed, any bowl with an unfilled slot shall select a team from the automatic qualifiers and/or at-large teams in the following order:

A. The bowl played on the date nearest to the National Championship Game (for 2009, Fiesta Bowl) will pick first;
B. The bowl played on the date second-nearest to the National Championship Game (for 2009, Sugar Bowl) will pick second;
C. The bowl hosting the game that is played in the time slot immediately after the Rose Bowl game (for 2009, Orange Bowl) will pick third.

The rotation noted in paragraphs A, B and C is as follows:
January 2007 games: Sugar, Orange, Fiesta
January 2008 games: Orange, Fiesta, Sugar
January 2009 games: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange
January 2010 games: Orange, Fiesta, Sugar

All teams earning automatic berths must be selected.

5. After completion of the selection process as described in Paragraph Nos. 1-4, the conferences and Notre Dame may, but are not required to, adjust the pairings taking into consideration the following:

A. whether the same team will be playing in the same bowl game for two consecutive years;
B. whether two teams that played against one another in the regular season will be paired against one another in a bowl game;
C. whether the same two teams will play against each other in a bowl game for two consecutive years; and
D. whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans as measured by expected ticket sales for the bowls and by expected television interest, and the consequent financial impact on Fox and the bowls.

The pairings may not be altered by removing the Big 10 Champion or Pac-10 champion from the Rose Bowl."
__________

What do these provisions mean for the current BCS situation?

Florida - currently 4th in the BCS Standings, is automatically qualified as a BCS team if it wins the SEC championship game (and it is also automatically qualified if it loses and is subsequently ranked 3rd or 4th)

Alabama - currently 1st in the BCS Standings, is automatically qualified as a BCS team if it wins the SEC championship game (and it is also automatically qualified if it loses and is subsequently ranked 3rd or 4th)

Oklahoma - currently 3rd in the BCS Standings, is automatically qualified it it beats Missouri in the Big 12 championship game (but if it loses, it will be excluded from a BCS berth because it is then sure to be ranked lower than Texas in the BCS Standings, and no conference can have more than two BCS teams, with Missouri then taking the other slot as conference champion)

Missouri - automatically qualified as a BCS team if it beats Oklahoma, otherwise non-BCS bowl

Texas - If Oklahoma passes Texas in the final BCS Standings, regardless of the outcome of the Florida-Alabama SEC championship game, Texas is almost sure to be ranked not less than 4th and will thus be an automatic BCS qualifier due to provision 5 or 6 on "automatic qualification". This will also apply to Florida or Alabama who both presumably will not be ranked below 4th, regardless of which one loses the final SEC game.

The winner of the game between Boston College - currently ranked 21st in the BCS Standings, and Virginia Tech - currently unranked, will be automatically qualified for a BCS berth as the champion of the ACC conference.

Cincinnati - currently ranked 16th in the BCS Standings is the Big East champion and automatically qualified for a BCS berth.

Penn State - currently ranked 8th in the BCS Standings is the Big 10 champion and automatically qualified for a BCS berth. Penn State can not be removed from the Rose Bowl.

USC- currently ranked 5th in the BCS Standings, if it beats UCLA in its last conference game, will be the Big 10 champion and automatically qualified for a BCS berth. USC can then not be removed from the Rose Bowl unless it were ranked under the top 2 in the BCS Standings, in which case it would play in the national championship game.

Utah - currently ranked 6th in the BCS Standings is automatically qualified for a BCS berth as discussed above.

Texas Tech - currently 7th-ranked is excluded from a BCS berth because no conference can have more than 2 BCS teams.

That's the situation from our perspective in reading the applicable provisions of the BCS selection procedure and applying them to the current bowl picture.

Full post as published by LawPundit on November 30, 2008 (boomark / email).

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