Thanks to a little-known college football rule, Florida State may not actually be bowl eligible despite a 6-6 record. But the Seminoles are still apparently set to play in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 27.
One of Florida State’s six wins came against FCS opponent Delaware State, a team that didn’t meet the minimum scholarship threshold for a win to be counted for bowl eligibility. An Independence Bowl spokesperson told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday that bowl was preparing for the game as expected between FSU and Southern Miss.
“This is a matter between the NCAA, Florida State and Delaware State. We’re continuing preparations for our game,” Stefan Nolet, public and media relations director for the Independence Bowl, told the Orlando Sentinel.
The Sentinel asked interim Florida State coach Odell Haggins about the apparent rules violation Thursday afternoon. Haggins responded to the question by saying the coaching staff was focused on the football team.
You can click the link for the detailed breakdown, but here’s the issue in a short summation. FCS schools can have a maximum of 63 full football scholarships divided among all members of the team as the school sees fit. Over the past two seasons, Delaware State has spread out an average of just under 55 full-time scholarships to 70 players.
Here’s where that obscure rule comes into play. In order for an FBS team’s win over an FCS team to count, the number of full-time scholarships awarded must equal 90 percent of the maximum (63). Delaware’s state average of 54.8 is under 90 percent.
There’s a caveat to this, of course, and that’s the NCAA’s ability to grant a waiver. The NCAA has full authority to grant teams a waiver to get around the 90 percent rule if they apply for one. FSU didn’t respond to either the Sentinel or Brett McMurphy’s inquiry about the existence of a waiver.
“This monumental error should have been caught at three levels: the school, conference and NCAA,” a bowl industry source said. “It’s too late to do anything now, they’ll still play in the game. If it was funny, it would be a comedy of errors.”
The “too late” part of the quote is key. Florida State could have applied for a waiver a while back. Or if it didn’t, someone could have noticed at the conclusion of the regular season and put any one of Western Michigan, Buffalo or Texas-San Antonio in the Independence Bowl in Florida State’s place.
All three of those teams finished the season 6-6 and missed out on a bowl game because there weren’t enough spots. But with no bowl to go to, those teams haven’t been preparing for a postseason game. Florida State has. It would be incredibly wild to make the logistics of finding a replacement team work with less than a week to go before the game.
The apparent oversight is also a hilarious footnote to what was a bizarre season for Florida State in the first place. After starting the season in the top five, the Seminoles’ season went down the tubes after quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending knee injury against Alabama in Week 1.
As the team struggled towards the potential of finishing at .500, the school rescheduled a previously hurricane-canceled game vs. Louisiana-Monroe for Dec. 2 to get to 6-6 and make a bowl game for the 36th straight season.
Oh, and that Louisiana-Monroe game was played with Haggins as the team’s coach too. Haggins was promoted to the team’s interim coach before the final week of the season after FSU coach Jimbo Fisher left for a lucrative 10-year, $75 million contract with Texas A&M.
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