What happens to bowl season if there aren’t enough college football teams with six wins or more? Since 2015, the NCAA’s allowed bowls to dip into teams with 5-7 records, with the leaders in multi-year APR getting first dibs. Ties are broken by single-year APR.
What’s APR? That’s Academic Progress Rate, the NCAA’s attempt to measure how well a program has done at advancing its athletes toward graduation over a rolling period of four years at a time. New scores are now out for every sport.
It’s essentially a pass/fail grade, with schools at the lower end being penalized — this year, Morgan State football, Alabama A&M basketball, and a few teams in non-revenue sports are postseason-banned because of it — and others proceeding as normal. Plenty of people have critiqued elements of the system, including its tendency to more harshly punish schools with resource disadvantages.
Based on this year’s Division I football list (in full below), the first 5-7 FBS teams to be in line for bowl bids would be:
- Air Force
- And so forth
Of course, all of them hope to not need that lifeline anyway. I think Clemson is probably fine.
Updated NCAA APR rankings
In 2015, the first year of this new rule, all three 5-7 bowl teams won their bowls. In 2016, Mississippi State won while North Texas fell to a bizarre 5-8 record. 2017 failed to be blessed with 5-7 teams, so we’re due.