The Pac-12 will require its football teams to win at least six regular-season games to play in a bowl game, eliminating the opportunity for a 5-7 squad to earn a postseason spot when there are not enough six-win teams nationally to fill the bowls.
Pac-12 presidents passed the rule proposed by a subcommittee of athletic directors led by Washington's Jennifer Cohen.
"The Pac-12 is committed to supporting the highest quality of competition at post-season bowl games," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday. "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."
The growing bowl lineup led to the NCAA determining in 2015 that 5-7 teams with the best Academic Progress Ratings would be bowl eligible if there were not enough six-win teams to fill the then-80 spots. Three 5-7 teams played in bowls in 2015 and two did so in 2016. None were needed last season.
No 5-7 bowl-eligible teams have been from the Pac-12, which this season has seven contracted bowl spots for its 12 schools. Sending a team to a far-off and low-profile bowl game, where it will draw few fans, can be a losing financial proposition for an athletic department, but bowl eligibility does come with extra practice time (20 hours per week) that coaches like.
Washington State coach Mike Leach called the conference's policy, which is in effect for this season, "a solution searching for a problem."
"If we had a 5-7 team lucky enough to make a bowl, they could probably use the practice and the players would probably appreciate the chance to play another game," Leach said. "Why should we limit opportunities when other conferences aren't?"
There will again be 39 FBS bowl games this season.