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NCAA Task Force Recommends Bowl Certification, Qualification Changes

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An NCAA task force led by Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman has made some recommendations on how to conduct college football's bowl season.

The most controversial recommendation is that a program must have a minimum Academic Progress Rate score of 930 in order to participate. That mark comes out to essentially a 50% graduation rate, but the way the APR measures things is flawed. For instance, if a player enrolls for spring classes but quits partway through to train for the NFL Draft, the school takes a hit for that.

Last year, nine bowl participants would have been ineligible for not meeting this requirement. This rule has a very good chance of making so that there aren't enough bowl eligible teams for all of the bowls out there. To help programs get ready for it, the rule would be phased in over several years.

The next recommendation is for all of the bowls to take place over a span no greater than three weeks. It would be hoping to set a window "that begins most likely after final exams at most institutions and ends in a date in January that in most cases would be before the first day of classes."

This proposal is not a huge change. After all, this season's bowls stretch from December 17 to January 9, a span of three weeks and three days. It largely would be used to keep the national championship game from going too far into the month of January. It also would seem to rule out the possibility of a future playoff larger than eight teams, as that is the maximum size that you can fit inside of three weeks.

Finally, the process of bowl certification would be decentralized. Currently, the NCAA has a process for deciding who gets to host bowl games and who doesn't. Though it doesn't seem like it, the NCAA's certification committee has turned down bowl proposals in the recent past along with certifying an insane 35 of them.

The proposed change would make it the responsibility of the conferences affiliated with each bowl to make sure that the bowl committee has proper governance and enough funding, community support and regular attendance to justify existence. Those are the types of things the NCAA Postseason Bowl Licensing Subcommittee does now, but the subcommittee would vanish as a result of this change. The NCAA would still set the criteria in these areas (partially in response to the Fiesta Bowl scandal), but the conferences will have to make sure the bowls follow them.

The NCAA wouldn't just set regulations on governance though. It would add a heap of new restrictions on advertising, including banning ads for alcohol above 6% ABV, tobacco, gambling, "nontherapeutic drugs" and anything else the association decides to frown upon.

Bowl CEOs would need to send annual certification letters ensuring that they are in compliance with all of the bowl task force's recommended criteria. The NCAA would also conduct periodic "audits" (scare quotes are the NCAA's there) and make the results known to the conferences and bowls.

Overall, these are very typical of what you'd expect from the NCAA. It loves its APR scores, so it will make them more important. It loves to put up a veneer that athlete welfare comes first, so it will make sure bowls conflict with class as little as possible (but don't ask about whether March Madness conflict with class, please). It also loves making rules that others have to enforce, and it's never found a vice it doesn't like to restrict. It's business as usual here.