MOUNT PLEASANT, MI - Last weekend's victory over UMass put Central Michigan with a 6-6 record and talks og a bowl game were optimistic. Obviously, several things needed to go their way, but everything was pointing at the Chippewas earning an extra game in 2013.
Unfortunately, a bowl game now seems very unlikely.
It started with last week's slate of games, where the Chippewas were rooting for every five win team to lose, and paint themselves out of the bowl picture. In fact, quite the opposite would happen. In the Big Ten, Michigan State and Purdue would both reach six wins and lock in bowl invitations. Likewise for Big 12 members Baylor and West Virginia, as well as ACC member Virginia Tech and SEC member Ole Miss. But perhaps no conference would do more damage to the Chippewas bowl chances then Conference USA.
The conference entered the weekend with just three eligible bowl teams, despite five bowl tie-ins. SMU and Rice were the two teams on the bubble, and both came into the week at 5-6 overall. Rice would slip past a 3-9 UTEP team 33-24, but it was SMU's win over 9-3 Tulsa that would really throw a wrench in CMU's bowl plans. Tulsa had come into the game undefeated in Conference USA play, but would fall to the Mustangs to give the conference five bowl eligible teams. SMU has already accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl.
If that wasn't enough to dash CMU's bowl hopes, the NCAA went ahead and sealed the door hours ago. That's because they approved a waiver for Georgia Tech, who comes into this weekend's ACC Championship vs. Florida State with a 6-6 record. They requested a waiver to keep bowl eligibility should they lose and fall to 6-7 overall, and today the NCAA granted them that waiver. Not only do the YelllowJackets become bowl eligible, but at 6-7 overall they can be selected over any 6-6 team.
That's a nice way of saying, they can be selected of any 6-6 Non-AQ team such as Central Michigan.
Among those who was not happy with the NCAA's decision was MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher.
"I am disappointed in the NCAA's decision to issue a waiver. I could not disagree more with the rationale provided," said Steinbrecher. "One of the reasons for the development of the policy covering this matter was to clearly create a selection order to manage just this situation.
"These selection orders were developed with NCAA staff input and approved unanimously by the NCAA Board of Directors last July. To suggest that that the NCAA staff or task force working on bowl policy did not contemplate such a circumstance, when this same situation occurred last year, is incorrect. The policy is clear and understandable.
"What is lacking is the willingness to enforce NCAA policy and that is regrettable. All the Mid-American Conference asks is that the rules that have been approved by the member institutions of the NCAA be enforced. That did not occur in this instance."
But, if it makes the Chippewas feel any better, they will likely be joined by a few other Non-AQ teams on the outside looking in. With Georgia Tech firmly in, there are currently 71 bowl eligible teams for 70 bowl spots. That does not include 5-6 Pittsburgh and Connecticut, who both could become bowl eligible this weekend and seize the Big East tie-ins.
So, if you were planning a trip to see Central Michigan play in a bowl game this winter, you might want to push those plans back to 2013. After four straight bowl games from 2006-09, the Chippewas will likely miss a bowl game for the third consecutive season. As the famous saying goes, "There is always next year".
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