The NCAA has made a change to the way conferences can sign contracts with bowl games.
The NCAA’s Division I Football Oversight Committee said Wednesday that it will take into account a conference’s previous number of bowl-eligible teams when determining how many bowl tie-ins a conference can have. For the bowl cycle from 2020-2025, the NCAA took the average number of bowl-eligible teams for a given conference in the previous four seasons to determine how many bowl tie-ins a conference is allowed to have.
Here’s a practical example. The SEC is now allowed to have up to 11 bowl tie-ins under the new formula based on the conference’s number of bowl-eligible teams over the past four seasons.
What’s with the math?
The goal of the new rule is to try to create the most attractive bowl matchups as possible while also minimizing the impact of 5-7 teams in bowl games. There could be as many as 43 bowls starting in 2020 with the possible additions of bowls in Chicago and Myrtle Beach. With 5-7 bowl teams making appearances in 2016 because there weren’t enough six-win teams, it’s a near-guarantee more sub-.500 teams will be making bowl appearances in the future.
“We struck that balance, and we wanted to strengthen the bowls,” said Bob Bowlsby, committee chair and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “We want to have better reporting to make sure bowl games are financially sound, and they are appropriately represented in terms of having them meet NCAA requirements, so they remain strong entities and serve the collegiate community.”
A bowl-eligible team will continue to be a team that’s won six games in a given season. Teams that are 5-7 will be given the first choices on accepting a bowl bid based on their Academic Progress Rates.
How many bowl tie-ins will each conference have?
Here’s a list of the number of bowl tie-ins allowed for each conference.
• American: 7
• ACC: 11
• Big 12: 7
• Big Ten: 9
• Conference USA: 7
• MAC: 6
• Mountain West: 6
• Pac-12: 8
• SEC: 11
• Sun Belt: 5
Notre Dame is counted as an ACC team for bowl contract purposes. Army and BYU also each have their own bowl tie-ins for seasons where they are bowl eligible.
The SEC and Big Ten each had 10 bowl contracts in 2017. Some of those contracts were shared with the ACC, meaning that bowls like the Music City Bowl, TaxSlayer Bowl and Citrus Bowl could work together and pick two teams from among the three conferences.
Each conference has its own rules for determing which teams go to which bowls it has contracts with. Some conferences base bowl appearances on their teams’ records, others take geography and ticket sales more into account.
What happens if a conference has more or less bowl-eligible teams than it has contracts?
Bowl contracts aren’t necessarily set in stone and the numbers above definitely won’t be the number of bowl-eligible teams in each conference after the 2020 season.
So the conferences and bowls (along with ESPN, which owns a lot of the bowls) still will have some flexibility when it comes to scheduling matchups when a conference has too many or too few deserving teams. For example, Houston ended up in the Las Vegas Bowl after the 2016 season despite the bowl game having a contract with the Pac-12 and Mountain West Conferences.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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