Georgia Tech receives bowl waiver

Georgia Tech might not win Saturday in the ACC title game against Florida State, but the Yellow Jackets picked up a huge victory Thursday.

The NCAA approved Georgia Tech's bowl waiver, allowing the Yellow Jackets to play in a bowl game even if they lose to FSU and finish 6-7.

Georgia Tech had filed a waiver after the NCAA board of directors passed a rule last summer, prohibiting bowls from picking a 6-7 team over an eligible 6-6 team.

The NCAA's decision to allow a team with a losing record in a bowl means a non-AQ team with a .500 record or better will not get a bowl bid.

Mid-American commissioner Jon Steinbrecher was disappointed in the NCAA's decision.

"I could not disagree more with the rationale provided," Steinbrecher said in a statement. "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 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."

Last week, industry sources told ESPN there were "several conferences" opposed to Georgia Tech receiving the waiver and taking a spot from a .500 or better team, specifically because the NCAA had changed the rule last summer.

Georgia Tech will be one of six bowl-eligible teams from the ACC. The ACC has eight bowl tie-ins, so the Yellow Jackets, even at 6-7, would be guaranteed a bid to an ACC bowl.

The Georgia Tech-Florida State winner will play in the Orange Bowl.

If Georgia Tech loses to FSU, it would mark the second consecutive season a team lost its conference championship game and went to a bowl game with a 6-7 record. Last year it was UCLA, which received an exemption from the NCAA to play in a bowl game despite its losing record. That prompted the NCAA's rule change over the summer.

Ironically, it was a decision by another ACC team that put Georgia Tech in this position. North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami finished in a three-way tie for the ACC's Coastal Division title.

However, North Carolina was bowl ineligible because of NCAA sanctions. Last week, Miami took a self-imposed bowl ban because of impending NCAA sanctions, leaving Georgia Tech (6-6) to play in the ACC title game.

Entering this weekend, there are 71 bowl-eligible teams (including Georgia Tech) for 70 bowl spots. The number could increase if UConn (5-6) beats Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (5-6) beats South Florida on Saturday.

If UConn and/or Pitt win, they are guaranteed a bowl affiliated with the Big East, which would in turn keep even more non-AQ schools from getting bowl bids.

Brett McMurphy covers college sports for ESPN.