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Does the NCAA Have Any Control Over Post-season Play?

I recently posted a story about how the Sack the BCS web site is wrong in directing it's feedback to the NCAA, when the NCAA does not have any control over post-season play in Division IA football. This resulted in some questions from one of our loyal readers that I was unable to answer.

Being a guy who's constantly curious and not afraid to ask for directions, I contacted Josh Centor, Coordinator of New Media Communications for the NCAA. Josh runs the blog "Double-A Zone" and asked him the following questions:

CN: How can the NCAA put teams on probation and tell them they can't go to a bowl game yet not be involved in determining postseason play?

The NCAA is a membership-led organization, and our membership has decided the extent to which they want national regulation within the postseason structure.  To say the NCAA is "not involved" in postseason bowls isn't correct.  The NCAA, through its Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee (representatives from member institutions),  licenses postseason bowls to ensure they are financially viable and are structurally set up to provide a quality experience for the teams.  The NCAA determines the eligibility criteria for participation in postseason bowls (e.g., minimum number of wins) and determines which conferences' officials will work specific bowl games.  The NCAA just does not create the postseason match-ups between teams or determine the postseason format (e.g., BCS).

CN: Why do you have to go through the NCAA to get a new bowl game established?

To ensure the bowls are financially viable, are a community based event structured to provide a quality experience for the teams, and that the number of bowls in the market is appropriate given historical data on the number of bowl eligible teams each year.

CN: Was there a point in history at which the NCAA did control bowl game policies and negotiations? If so, what happened to change it?

No.  The first Rose Bowl (1905) happened before the NCAA was even officially established.

CN: What is the difference between Division IA, IAA, II and III - who controls the other subdivision's post-season play policies and structure?

The NCAA sponsors 88 championships in 23 sports each year.  Three of those championships are football - Division I-AA, Division II and Division III.  The NCAA membership has given the national office the ability to run the football championships in the other divisions, but the chancellors and presidents in Division I have not changed their commitment to the BCS and bowl structure.  Until that happens, the NCAA doesn't have control over the postseason match-ups in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

 CN: Could the NCAA have any influence on whether or not Division IA would move to a playoff system?

Only through the collective will of the membership.  If an appropriate majority of the membership thought the postseason bowl system should be more akin to an NCAA championship, it is conceivable we could see a change that would bring the Football Bowl Subdivision in line with the rest of NCAA championship events.

Thanks for the clarifications, Josh!

So... what we learned is that if you want to have a playoff system, you need to influence the 'collective will' of the NCAA, which means the University presidents. A very difficult proposition, but we'll have more to say later on the subject.