Why Iowa cannot refuse a Big Ten-affiliated bowl invitation

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ANSWER: For some strange reason, whenever a college football team has a subpar season, a vocal minority of the team’s fan base immediately demands the team should not accept a bowl invitation. That happens semi-regularly among some Iowa fans who think anything below 9 wins is unworthy of a prestigious bowl invitation. (Pardon me while I laugh.)

With Iowa struggling to sell its 7,500-ticket allotment to the Pinstripe Bowl, some people openly question why the the athletics department didn’t decline the invitation. Of course no team in its right mind would turn down the chance for 15 extra practices leading into a bowl game. Plus, could you imagine the backlash of such an act on the recruiting trail?

But more importantly, Iowa cannot refuse an invitation to a Big Ten contract bowl. According to the Big Ten Handbook, “ Conference teams invited to participate in a contract bowl are obligated to accept such invitation.” The only way Iowa or any Big Ten team could decline a bowl invitation is if the bowl is not affiliated within the Big Ten’s bowl structure. With the Big Ten contracted for eight annual selections (10 different bowls) outside of the New Year’s Six, it’s unlikely that a team would be eligible beyond that framework. The last time that happened was in 2011 when Illinois competed in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (now Foster Farms Bowl). If a 6-6 Big Ten team declines a bowl invitation outside the league structure, God bless them. The search for a new athletics director begins by 10 p.m. that evening.

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