Sunday, November 27, 2011
Bowl eligibility in jeopardy for UCLA
By Peter Yoon
To bowl or not to bowl? That is the question UCLA, the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA will have to answer should the Bruins lose to Oregon on Friday in the Pac-12 title game.
The Bruins (6-6) finished the regular season bowl eligible but would need to ask the conference to petition the NCAA for a waiver to play in a bowl game should they drop below .500.
Yes, in a bizarre twist of fate, the team that slipped into the conference title game through the back door is now a 30-point underdog in that game and is very likely to lose bowl eligibility simply because it qualified for the Pac-12 title game.
"It’s a unique situation," quarterback Kevin Prince said.
And one that is not yet resolved.
Athletic director Dan Guerrero said Saturday night that the school was still in discussions with the Pac-12 about the waiver process.
"We're certainly going to explore the possibility of going to a bowl this week with the NCAA and the conference," Guerrero said.
Coach Rick Neuheisel was adamant in his belief that the Bruins should go to a bowl game even if they lose the conference championship game and fall to 6-7.
"We have a right to go to a bowl game," Neuheisel said. "We finished the season 6-6 and that qualifies you for a bowl game...We have a right to be in postseason just like everybody else that finished 6-6 over the course of 12 games."
Guerrero, however, isn't completely sold on the idea of going to a bowl game with a sub-.500 record.
"We've had a very inconsistent year," Guerrero said. "We've had flashes of really good things and we've played very poorly at times. So all of that will be factored into the decision."
Should the Bruins upset the Ducks, UCLA would earn the Pac-12 title and an automatic berth in the Rose Bowl, so the difference between winning and losing Friday is The Grandaddy of Them All or possibly no bowl at all.
"It’s kind of Rose Bowl or no bowl, almost," Prince said.
The strange twist is that if USC were eligible for the postseason, the Bruins would already be bowl eligible and probably heading to a minor bowl game. Instead, the team coming off a 50-point loss to the Trojans will represent the South in the conference title game and could have its season end because of it.
"It’s a little weird," Prince said. "Obviously things didn’t go the way we wanted [against USC]. We would have preferred to make the championship game by winning it outright, but at the same time the opportunity has presented itself where we get the opportunity to redeem ourselves and redeem our season and did what we set out to do which is win a Pac-12 championship."
Guerrero says he hopes the team can pull of the upset and not have to make any decisions about applying for the waiver.
"We could still win the game next week and go to the Rose Bowl," he said. "All we're focusing on right now is supporting this team as they go to prepare for Oregon next week. ... Obviously next week we're hoping we play very well against the Oregon Ducks and shock the world."
ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report