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BCS 101


BCS Automatic Qualification, At-Large Eligibility
and Selection Procedures, 2011-2014 Games

from BCS Releases
Updated 11/25/11, 5/9/13

Automatic Qualification
1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings shall play in the National Championship Game.

2. The champions of the Atlantic Coast, American Athletic (formerly Big East), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Southeastern conferences will have automatic berths in one of the participating bowls through the 2013 regular season.

3. The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

  • A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,
  • B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

No more than one such team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference shall earn an automatic berth in any year. (Note: a second team may be eligible for at-large eligibility as noted below.) If two or more teams from those conferences satisfy the provisions for an automatic berth, then the team with the highest finish in the final BCS Standings will receive the automatic berth, and the remaining team or teams will be considered for at-large selection if it meets the criteria.

4. Notre Dame will have an automatic berth if it is in the top eight of the final BCS Standings.

5. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4, and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier, provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.

6. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 5, and if no team qualifies under paragraph No. 5 and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 4 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.

At-large Eligibility
If there are fewer than 10 automatic qualifiers, then the bowls will select at-large participants to fill the remaining berths. An at-large team is any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible and meets the following requirements:

  • A. Has won at least nine regular-season games, and
  • B. Is among the top 14 teams in the final BCS Standings.

No more than two teams from a conference may be selected, regardless of whether they are automatic qualifiers or at-large selections, unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings.

If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings subject to the two-team limit noted above and also subject to the following:

  • 1) if any conference has two or more teams in the top 14, then two of those teams must be selected and
  • (2) from the teams ranked 15-18, a bowl can select only a team from a conference that has fewer than two teams in the top 14.

If expansion of the pool to 18 teams does not result in 10 teams eligible for selection, then the pool shall be expanded by blocks of 4 teams until 10 eligible teams are available subject to the two-team limit noted above and also subject to the following: (1) if any conference has two or more teams in the top 14, then two of those teams must be selected and (2) from the teams ranked 15 or lower, a bowl can select only a team from a conference that has fewer than two teams in the top 14.

Relative to the two preceding paragraphs, all teams ranked in the top 14, other than those from conferences which have already had two teams selected, must be included in the bowl selections.

Note: in order to participate in a BCS Bowl game, a team

  • (a) must be eligible for post-season play under the rules of the NCAA and, if it not an independent, under the rules of its conference and
  • (b) must not have imposed sanctions upon itself prohibiting participation in a post-season game for infractions of the rules of the NCAA or the rules of its conference.

Team Selection Procedures
The bowls will select their participants from two pools: (1) automatic qualifiers, all of which must be selected, and, (2) at-large teams, if fewer than 10 teams qualify automatically. The following sequence will be used when establishing pairings:

1. The top two teams in the final BCS Standings will be placed in the National Championship Game ("NCG").

2. Unless they qualify to play in the NCG, the champions of selected conferences are contractually committed to host selected games:

  • Atlantic Coast Conference-Orange Bowl
  • Big Ten Conference-Rose Bowl
  • Big 12 Conference-Fiesta Bowl
  • Pac-12 Conference-Rose Bowl
  • Southeastern Conference-Sugar Bowl

3. If a bowl loses a host team to the NCG, then such bowl shall select a replacement team from among the automatic-qualifying teams and the at-large teams before any other selections are made. If two bowls lose host teams to the NCG, each bowl will get a replacement pick before any other selections are made. In such case, the bowl losing the No. 1 team gets the first replacement pick, and the bowl losing the No. 2 team gets the second replacement pick. If the Rose Bowl loses both the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions to the NCG, it will receive two replacement picks.

(For the games of January 2011 through 2014, the first year the Rose Bowl loses a team to the NCG and a team from the non-AQ group is an automatic qualifier, that non-AQ team will play in the Rose Bowl.)

A bowl choosing a replacement team may not select any of the following:

  • A. A team in the NCG;
  • B. The host team for another BCS Bowl;
  • C. When two bowls lose host teams, then the bowl losing the number one team may not select a replacement team from the same conference as the number two team, unless the bowl losing the number two team consents.

4. After steps No. 1, 2 and 3 have been completed, any bowl with an unfilled slot shall select a team from the automatic qualifiers and/or at-large teams in the following order for the games played in 2007 through 2010:

  • A. The bowl played on the date nearest to the National Championship Game will pick first;
  • B. The bowl played on the date second-nearest to the National Championship Game will pick second;
  • C. The bowl hosting the game that is played in the time slot immediately after the Rose Bowl game will pick third.

The selection order noted in paragraphs A, B and C is as follows:
January 2011 games: Sugar, Orange, Fiesta
January 2012 games: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange
January 2013 games: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange
January 2014 games: Orange, Sugar, Fiesta

All teams earning automatic berths must be selected.

5. After completion of the selection process as described in Paragraph Nos. 1-4, the conferences and Notre Dame may, but are not required to, adjust the pairings taking into consideration the following:

  • A. whether the same team will be playing in the same bowl game for two consecutive years;
  • B. whether two teams that played against one another in the regular season will be paired against one another in a bowl game;
  • C. whether the same two teams will play against each other in a bowl game for two consecutive years; and
  • D. whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans as measured by expected ticket sales for the bowls and by expected television interest, and the consequent financial impact on Fox and the bowls.

The pairings may not be altered by removing the Big Ten Champion or Pac-12 champion from the Rose Bowl.

Future BCS Championship Game Locations
2011 Glendale, AZ
2012 New Orleans
2013 Miami
2014 Pasadena

Tie-breaking Procedure
The following steps will be used to resolve any ties in the standings after the computation is carried out to full decimal points:

1. Look to head-to-head result;

2. If the tie is not resolved by paragraph No. 1, then evaluate results against the highest-ranked common opponent in the BCS standings;

3. If the tie is not resolved by paragraph Nos. 1-2, then calculate tied teams' place in BCS Standings using all six computer providers (i.e., do not throw out the high and low computer rankings) and the Harris and Coaches polls;

4. If the tie is not resolved by paragraph Nos. 1-3, then draw.

Standards For Future BCS Automatic Qualification
The champions of the Atlantic Coast, American Athletic (formerly Big East), Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conferences will have annual automatic qualification for a BCS game through the 2013 regular season, based on mathematical standards of performance during the 2004-2007 regular seasons.

The 2008-2011 regular seasons will be evaluated under the same standards to determine if other conferences will have annual automatic qualification for the games after the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. The champions of no more than seven conferences will have annual automatic berths.

If the BCS continues under the same or similar format, conferences will be evaluated on their performances during the 2010-2013 regular seasons to determine which conferences will have automatic qualification for the bowls that will conclude the 2014-2017 regular seasons.

The evaluation data includes the following for each conference (1) the ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year, (2) the final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year and (3) the number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings each year.

Conference agreements with bowls will continue. The Pac-12 and Big Ten champions will host the Rose Bowl if their teams are not in the BCS national championship game. Likewise, the Southeastern Conference champion will host the Sugar Bowl, ACC champion will host the Orange Bowl and Big 12 champion will host the Fiesta Bowl.

What If?
What if the current criteria for automatic qualification had been in place since 1998?

Starting with the 2006 college football season, there are new criteria for automatic qualification for the Bowl Championship Series.

The major change for automatic qualification dictates that one team from among the champions of Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference or the Western Athletic Conference earn automatic qualification if such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and its ranking in the final BCS standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth.

In previous years, automatic qualification was earned for any team finishing sixth or higher in the final BCS standings.

If the 2006 automatic qualification standards had been in place, the following additional teams would have been guaranteed automatic selection to the BCS during the first eight seasons of the BCS: 1998 Tulane, No. 10, Conference USA; 1999 Marshall No. 12 , Mid-American; 2003 Miami (Ohio), No. 11, Mid-American ; 2005 TCU, No. 14, Mountain West.