Florida State is scheduled to play next week in the Independence Bowl, in which it will face Southern Mississippi. That became noteworthy on Thursday, after a Reddit investigation unearthed evidence that the Seminoles are not, in fact, bowl-eligible.
According to a Reddit user who goes by “bakonydraco,” FSU’s 77-6 win over Delaware State on Nov. 18 should not have counted toward its record, in terms of bowl consideration. That would effectively drop the Seminoles’ record to 5-6, and teams need to have a .500 record or better to be eligible for bowls.
The case made at Reddit hinges on an obscure NCAA rule that FCS-level teams, such as Delaware State, must use at least 90 percent of their scholarship allotments over a two-year period to count toward an FBS team’s bowl eligibility. Using information provided by Delaware State, bakonydraco determined that the Hornets used 87 percent of their permissible scholarships.
Florida State declined to comment Thursday, but an Independence Bowl official said that no changes are expected for his event. “This is a matter between the NCAA, Florida State and Delaware State. We’re continuing preparations for our game,” Stefan Nolet, the bowl’s public and media relations director, told the Orlando Sentinel.
“This monumental error should have been caught at three levels: the school, conference and NCAA,” a bowl industry source told veteran college football reporter Brett McMurphy. “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.”
Assuming FSU plays in the bowl game, it will be the 36th straight year it will have done so, setting an NCAA record. The Seminoles had to scramble to get to 6-6, though, and the Reddit report is just the latest episode in a tumultuous season.
Ranked in the top five to start the season, FSU lost its starting quarterback, Deondre Francois, in its first game, a loss to Alabama. The team’s next game, a matchup with Louisiana-Monroe, was initially canceled because of Hurricane Irma, but the game was later rescheduled when the Seminoles, with a 3-5 record at that point, realized their bowl streak was in jeopardy.
One day before the Seminoles played Louisiana-Monroe on Dec. 2, winning handily to get to 6-6, they lost their head coach. Jimbo Fisher, who had led FSU to an undefeated season and a BCS championship in 2013, announced he was taking over Texas A&M’s program, leaving interim coach Odell Haggins to lead the team past the Warhawks and into bowl eligibility. FSU has since hired Willie Taggart away from Oregon to be its next head coach.
Meanwhile, three other eligible FBS teams — Buffalo (6-6), Texas-San Antonio (6-5) and Western Michigan (6-6) — did not make the field of invitees to the 39 bowl games. “It’s altogether disappointing, especially after watching some of these early bowl games,” Buffalo Coach Lance Leipold told McMurphy.
“This puts another damper on what I felt our kids deserved,” Leipold said, adding, “I can’t blame FSU, it’s a technicality that got overlooked. But you wish they would have checked it out.”
Had the reported eligibility issue been spotted earlier, the Seminoles could have applied for a waiver from the NCAA, although there’s no guarantee it would have been granted. As a practical matter, it’s not realistic for FSU to be replaced by one of the three other schools with just days to go before the bowl game.
“We’re focused on this football team and being the best Florida State football team we can be,” Haggins said after Thursday’s practice when asked about his team’s eligibility.
Read more from The Post: