The new policy is hardly the egregious miscalculation we see from the conference in other football matters, but why legislate from on high? Washington State coach Mike Leach called it “a solution in search of a problem.”
The Pac-12 took a step Monday that would be unimaginable for any other conference — Power Five conference, Group of Five conference, FCS conference … NAIA conference.
According to an Associated Press report, the Pac-12 will prohibit five-win teams from playing in bowl games.
Yep, the conference is voluntarily limiting its postseason options, albeit only in the most extreme circumstances.
Rarely do FBS teams with 5-7 records qualify for the postseason: In the three years since the possibility came into existence — because there aren’t enough .500 or better teams available to fill all the slots — it has only happened five times.
And none of the 5-7 participants came from the Pac-12.
The new policy, which began with the conference office and the athletic directors but ultimately received presidential approval, ensures that streak continues.
On the surface, the move seems unnecessary and self-defeating:
The Pac-12 would deny a team of the postseason experience and, crucially, the practices that come with it — all for that rare occasion when the opportunity presented itself.
Washington State coach Mike Leach called it “a solution in search of a problem.”
The pushback from fans and media was swift. No surprise there. So lengthy is the list of recent Pac-12 football missteps — both on and off the field — that we’re conditioned to respond dismissively to any new policy.
And in this case, the skepticism was rooted in reality:
Why voluntarily deny your team the competition, your players the reward, your coach the practices, and your conference the television exposure?
And why centralize the policy? Why not leave the decision to the schools?
“Why should we limit opportunities when other conferences aren’t?’’ Leach added.
The development presents another opportunity to bash the Pac-12 … and to repeat our call for the creation of a football competition committee.
Except this time, the Hotline will pass on the bash.
While I disagree with the new policy, it’s hardly the egregious miscalculation we see from the conference in other football matters, including and especially the approach to scheduling. (And there’s a major whiff on that front once again.)
With the self-imposed postseason ban, we’re in slightly more nuanced territory because of the recruiting calendar.
The early signing window, which has quickly became the primary signing window, falls on or about Dec. 20. This creates a significant conflict for coaches trying to prepare for the early bowl games.
What’s more, the teams that would be affected by the new postseason policy — the five-win teams — will either have just completed a coaching change, be smack in the middle of a coaching change, or have their attention focused entirely on securing a quality recruiting class.
Hauling that five-win team across the country for a meaningless, money-losing postseason experience probably won’t be atop the priority list.
And yes, the economics are absolutely a piece of the calculation:
For 5-7 teams, the bowl game is likely to be a money loser because of poor ticket sales, high travel costs and the bonus paid to the head coach for qualifying for a bowl — yep, even though he had a losing season. (They all get postseason bonuses these days.)
So the schools are left with an experience that doesn’t make sense economically (money loser) or competitively (recruiting should be the priority), that doesn’t energize fans or showcase a quality product.
But why not let the schools choose their fate?
Why legislate from on high?
The reality on the front lines is that turning down a bowl berth isn’t easy politically for athletics directors — it’s a bad look — even though it might be the right thing to do.
An official ban backed by presidential authority gives ADs the cover needed to say no.
My understanding, per a source with knowledge of the discussions, is that there was strong agreement on the matter at the campus level.
This wasn’t a case of the conference dictating policy and insisting the schools fall in line.
Then again, the source also noted that the postseason fate of 5-7 teams is far, far down the list of football matters that require immediate attention.
Why worry about a busted taillight when the engine needs fixing.