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How Should Excess Bowl Spots Be Given Out?

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This year, three 5-7 teams found themselves in a bowl game after a record number of bowl berths were not filled. Plenty more teams found themselves at home with that very same record. Is the NCAA using the most fair method to pick 5-7 teams?

Rice was one of two Conference USA teams that sat at 5-7 but did not receive a bowl berth due to NCAA selection rules.
Rice was one of two Conference USA teams that sat at 5-7 but did not receive a bowl berth due to NCAA selection rules.
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

After the conclusion of Monday's national championship game, a total of 41 bowl games were played, the most ever contested. 80 teams (62.5 percent of the FBS) would find themselves in a bowl.

Despite all the hype of giving more teams a chance, filling the number of bowls proved more troublesome than the NCAA originally thought. Only 77 of the total spots were taken by the end of the regular season, with six teams needing the final two weeks to qualify.

For the three remaining spots, an NCAA contingency plan set in 2012 - which stated that if there were not enough eligible teams, the top five programs by Academic Progress Rating (APR) would get the nod - was fired up for the first time.

Six teams found themselves in this spot including Nebraska, Missouri (who said they were not interested), San Jose State, Minnesota, Illinois, and Rice. The top three programs (again sans Missouri) found themselves bowling while the rest were left on the outside.

No one is complaining about extra football, and as a matter of fact, all three 5-7 teams won their respective games over favored opponents. But does the process to pick teams below the win threshold make sense?

Looking at the G5 conference bowl tie-ins that were not filled, Conference USA (5 out of 7) was the lone conference fell short of their commitments (The Sun Belt had four bowl eligible teams, but did not fill their secondary commitment in the Arizona Bowl) . In each situation, there were enough 5-7 teams to fill the three spots they were told they lacked.

Their supposed lack of eligible programs led to two Mountain West teams (Colorado State and Nevada) facing off in the aforementioned Arizona Bowl, as well as the Arizona Wildcats taking C-USA's spot in the New Mexico Bowl.

Florida International, Old Dominion, and South Alabama all sat at 5-7, but outside of the APR needed to receive a bowl berth. Even with the conference tie-in and the same record as the team that got in, they had no guarantee of getting in over another program.

While commitments help make sure each conference gets a seat at the table, what good does it do if you have to revert to a backup program or have to pit two teams from the same conference?

It might be better to bring in a G5 program at 5-7 because of the worth of the bowl experience and the novelty of a bowl game to the players. All things being equal besides the strength of the conference, both teams did play to the same record.

Why not put Old Dominion into their first bowl game and give their fans something to get excited about? Allow South Alabama to try and take their first Bowl win? Those are things that will matter to programs down the road.

Appalachian State could be the biggest example of a G5 program hitting an important milestone in a bowl game. The Mountaineers staged a 31-29 comeback victory in front of 19,621 fans at the Cramton Bowl to finish the season as the first eleven win team in Sun Belt history.

That kind of history-making game is what draws in fans and gets people to watch games they otherwise might not. Nearly 1.850 million people tuned into the game, a better viewership than two of the four bowl games during the day (only Utah vs. BYU had a higher viewership.). Just check out their Twitter to see how much this win means to them:

The new system in place will need to last the test of time, because if the NCAA has to stretch to fill all its bowls it only stands to give less worth to supposed "post-season" games and shows they may have overextended themselves.

It seems stupid that a team would skip out on the money a bowl game gives or let another team take that payout. It may be crazy that a team would give up extra practice time even if they feel that they don't deserve it.

But if there is no desire from a 5-7 P5 team to play, maybe the best bet is to change the way things are done to best suit those willing to play.