Georgia Tech believes it’s going to a bowl game. Other parts of the college football world are less confident.
In one more chapter in the strange saga that has been the Yellow Jackets season, the school faces the possibility of playing in the ACC Championship game with the most disparate of outcomes – beat Florida State and go to the Orange Bowl or lose and stay home. This scenario is far from a certainty, but is not out of the question, either.
Tech has petitioned the NCAA for a bowl-eligibility waiver in the event that it loses to the Seminoles to fall to 6-7, which would drop the Yellow Jackets below the .500 standard necessary to go to a bowl game. School, ACC and bowl officials have been confident that the NCAA will grant the waiver.
“We have full confidence that, at the end of the day, we’re going to be playing in a bowl game among the ACC selections between Dec. 27 and the first of January,” acting athletic director Paul Griffin said, “and we’re doing everything we can to be prepared to play the first of January at the Orange Bowl. Beyond that, everything else is secondary.”
Tech could receive an answer from the NCAA prior to Saturday’s game against the Seminoles. Reports have suggested pushback against Tech being granted the waiver.
Monday, NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford debunked reported claims that Tech has no chance at bowl eligibility if it loses to FSU.
“I’ve seen a couple reports out there (stating) that it’s already been decided, that they will not be eligible for a waiver, and that’s not accurate,” he said. “There has been no decision or official movement either way at this point.”
Tech’s petition will go before the concisely-named NCAA Division I Legislative Council Subcommitee for Legislative Relief. The waiver request likely makes Tech’s case on why it is deserving of eligibility. Radford said his recollection of UCLA’s petition included the argument that it was only playing in the Pac-12 Championship game, and thus putting itself at risk to fall below .500, because USC was ineligible. Tech could make the same contention, as Miami’s self-imposed postseason ban enabled the Yellow Jackets to play for the ACC title.
Tech could also offer up UCLA as a precedent case and offer the line of logic that it shouldn’t be penalized for playing in a championship game. The argument against is that there are a sufficient number of bowl-eligible teams and that one of them shouldn’t be denied a bowl spot in favor of a team that requires a waiver to be considered.
How Tech’s petition will be received by the NCAA is uncertain.
“I quit trying to guess the NCAA years ago,” Football Bowl Association executive director Wright Waters said. “If I could figure out the NCAA, I would go buy lottery tickets.”
The Tech team is proceeding with the understanding that it will be playing in a bowl game regardless, either the Orange Bowl with a victory or most likely the Sun Bowl with a loss, as the Chick-fil-A and Russell Athletic bowls would almost certainly bypass Tech at 6-7. The Sun Bowl, where Tech played last December, is contractually obligated to invite the ACC runner-up if it’s available.
“We’ll worry about (not receiving the waiver) if that happens, I guess,” coach Paul Johnson said Monday. “I just go off what our athletic director tells me. He’s usually a better source than reporters.”
Griffin said that Tech would be willing to drop down past the Sun Bowl if it made sense for all involved parties. Given that the Jackets just went to El Paso, Texas, Sun Bowl officials probably wouldn’t protest such a maneuvering around ACC bylaws. Discussions on the matter have only been internal to this point.
The Jackets, of course, can skip the waiver rigmarole easily.
Said Griffin, “We’re planning to go to the Orange Bowl.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog