Minimum Requirements to be in a College Football Bowl

Unlike other NCAA sports, football will not include a final tournament until the 2014 season. Even when this tournament is implemented it will only involve four teams and leave a huge majority of successful teams out of postseason play. This is where the bowl games come in; to reward other deserving teams with a finale. There are not enough bowl games for every team to play in one, so the college Football Bowl Subdivision developed minimum requirements that teams must meet in order to be considered for a college bowl game. Prior to a 2006 rule change, a team had to have a winning record in order to be bowl eligible. Since schedules had lengthened to twelve games the FBS decided that having a non-losing record or winning half of a team’s games was enough for the team to be considered for bowl games. In situations where teams play a thirteen game schedule those teams must win at least seven games to be bowl eligible. One of these wins may come against a division two school as long that team spends a certain amount on its football program’s scholarships. Lastly teams on bowl probation may not be permitted to play in bowl games. These are specific punishments often handed down by the NCAA for various rules infractions.

Additional Rules for College Bowl Eligibility

Although teams with a record of 6-6 are bowl eligible, many people think teams with seven or more wins should get bowl bid priority over teams with only six wins. Before 2010 the league had several rules that favored teams with seven or more wins over teams with fewer wins. This type of rule often favored teams in smaller conferences that could be overlooked in favor of teams with worse records in larger divisions. In 2010 these rules were overturned to allow 6-6 teams to be selected to bowl games over teams with more than six wins. That year teams from small conference like 8-4 Temple and 7-5 Western Kentucky were picked over in favor of teams like 6-7 UCLA. The FBS ruled that since UCLA lost to USC, who was ineligible for postseason play, in the Pac Twelve championship game the team’s record should be considered 6-6, making them bowl eligible. This seemingly questionable rule change is likely financially rooted since teams from larger conferences like UCLA make bowl more money than teams like Temple.

Automatic Bids

Another new rule introduced in 2010 has the opposite effect of the previous one and actually helps teams from small conferences. The rule states that teams that win their conference may be bowl eligible even if they have a losing record by submitting a waiver to the NCAA. Normally a team that wins its conference with a winning record would be awarded an automatic bid to a bowl game. The UCLA team from the previous example received a waiver from the NCAA football that allowed them to become bowl eligible.


After a team is deemed to be eligible for a bowl, it is up to the bowls and the rules set by the FBS to determine which teams play in which bowl games. For bowls to continue to exist in the FBS they usually must gain agreements with at least one but possibly two conference to supply the game with eligible teams. Often a conference will agree to send a team of a certain rank to a specific bowl game. For example the Outback Bowl generally matches the third ranked team of the Big Ten against the third ranked team of the SEC. These conference tie-ins benefit both the bowls by consistently providing quality teams and the conferences by supply those conferences and its teams with a steady, yearly cash flow.