5-7? Better luck next season.
That’s been true in most cases for college football teams that finish with such a record: They end their seasons on the outside looking in at a shot at postseason play. But now, for Pac-12 powerhouses seeking a bowl berth, win No. 6 is a prerequisite for some and a golden ticket for others taking aim at a late December or early January adventure.
This week, the conference’s leaders instituted a new rule that prevents 5-7 teams from bowl contention altogether, effective for the upcoming season. Unlike under previous policy, a minimum 6-6 regular season record will now be a requirement for teams to reach the postseason, a mark that has historically served as a benchmark for bowl eligibility.
The decision was originally spearheaded by University of Washington Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen and supported by Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
“The Pac-12 is committed to supporting the highest quality of competition at post-season bowl games,” Scott said in a statement to the Associated Press. “In requiring a minimum of six regular season wins our goal is to support the significance of the bowl season and provide our fans around the country with the most exciting games featuring our leading Pac-12 teams.”
In recent seasons, the Football Bowl Subdivision bowl system has included a policy for 5-7 programs with high Academic Progress Rates to fill out any remaining bowl matchups should all eligible six-win programs already have a slot, although such cases are rare.
Since 2015, just five 5-7 teams have received bids despite finishing the regular season on the unfavorable side of .500. None of them hailed from the “conference of champions,” but the Pac-12 did send UCLA (6-7) to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2011 after Pac-12 South champion USC was ineligible because of bowl sanctions.
Aside from being a postseason matchup against another solid program, a bowl game can provide teams with a variety of inherent benefits, including extra practice time and an additional contest for graduating seniors. The last time Cal football received a bowl bid was in 2015 under the direction of future NFL No. 1 pick Jared Goff.
The difference between a 5-7 year and a 6-6 showing has been decisive over the past two years for the Bears, a rebuilding program that finished 5-7 in back-to-back seasons under head coaches Sonny Dykes and Justin Wilcox. Should the blue and gold faithful be in for another sub-.500 performance, this year’s absence from a bowl game will be all but guaranteed.