Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Losing record? UCLA still wants a bowl
By ESPN.com staff
Turns out UCLA wants to play in a bowl game, even without a coach and with the infamy of being a losing team back-dooring into the bowl season.
Athletic director Dan Guerrero, a few hours after firing coach Rick Neuheisel, said the Bruins have applied for a waiver to play in a bowl game should they fall to 6-7 with a loss at Oregon on Friday in the Pac-12 championship game. The Bruins are 31-point underdogs against the Ducks, and Mike Johnson would take over for Neuheisel as interim coach in the event of the bowl waiver being granted.
"It would be great opportunity to have one last crack at a win," Guerrero said.
Here's the logic behind applying for the waiver, which might not be granted: The only reason UCLA is considered the South Division champion is because USC -- the true South champ -- is ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. If the Trojans were eligible, the Bruins would have finished 6-6 and, ergo, been bowl eligible.
So the Bruins are going to claim their losing record isn't really their fault.
If, of course, they lose to Oregon. If they beat the Ducks, well, then it's on to the Rose Bowl.
Yes, this is a bit odd.
The second front here is the Pac-12 is contracted to eight bowls and likely won't fill two spots -- Kraft Fight Hunger and New Mexico -- if both Oregon and Stanford end up in BCS bowl games. And the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl wants UCLA because it's scrambling for teams.
With one weekend remaining, there are 71 bowl-eligible teams for 70 spots in 35 games. So, yes, there are enough teams for the bowl season. And, yes, if UCLA gets a spot, a team with at least a .500 record will miss out.
The Kraft Bowl is on Dec. 31 and its payout is $925,000. If the Bruins are thrifty, they might be able to break even on the trip. Perhaps they can take buses to the game instead of flying?
Most coaches will tell you the benefit of a bowl game is extra practices. The bowl game actually serves as a springboard for the next season. But the Bruins would be practicing with a lame-duck staff. That means schemes will be different next fall, as will the evaluation of talent.
The question then is this: What's the value of UCLA playing a bowl game?
Ultimately, it should come down to the players, not administration or bowl executives. If the players want to continue to practice and extend their season until Dec. 31, then perhaps there's enough justification for seeking the waiver.
Just so everyone on the Bruins' end knows that every time they are mentioned during the bowl season they will be tagged as the only bowl team with a losing record and a fired head coach.