Did an NCAA Record Miscalculation Cost Tuskegee a Division II Football Playoff Bid?

Tuskegee University won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football championship last Saturday and finished its regular season with a 9-2 overall record. But the Golden Tigers were seemingly snubbed by NCAA’s Division II football playoff committee as an ‘Earned Access’ team by way of its seeding in the final regional standings.

But data shows that Tuskegee wasn’t snubbed out of an at-large bid, but may have been screwed by an error in record keeping.

The 2017 NCAA Division II football playoff eligibility rules say that a team can make it into the tournament by finishing in the top seven of its super region, based upon the following criteria.

The regional rankings committees are tasked with assigning teams based on the following criteria, which shall be applied in no particular order per the NCAA Handbook: in-region winning percentage; Division II winning percentage; Division II strength of schedule (opponents’ average winning percentage and opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage); Division II head-to-head competition; and results versus Division II common opponents.
 
The Division II Football Committee has received approval from the Division II Championships
Committee to also consider the following criteria in the selection of at-large teams: Division II record on the road, Division II results vs. teams with a record of .500 or better and in-region non-conference won/loss record.

A look at the posted final rankings shows TU with a 6-2 overall in-region record against Super Region II opponents, which apparently led the committee to rank the Golden Tigers below Delta State and Carson-Newman, both teams with three losses in region.

But a closer look at the stats shows that the Golden Tigers in fact only lost one game against a super regional opponent (Albany State) and one loss out-of-region against Findlay, a Super Region I team.

That would make Tuskegee’s overall super regional record 6-1, not 6-2 as listed. That would make TU a full game better when compared to other two and three-loss teams in the region.

And according to NCAA rules, that likely would’ve made the previous week’s rankings easier to place TU into the top seven of their region.

2017 NCAA Division II Football Championships Facts:
• Seven teams from each of the four Super Regions will advance to the 2017 NCAA Division II Football Championships following the completion of the regular season and respective conference championships.

• Conference champions do not receive automatic berths into the NCAA Tournament. However, an Earned Access policy is in place that allows select conferences to gain a tournament representative if its highest-ranked team is in the Top 8 of the final Super Region Rankings on Selection Sunday. From Super Region 1, the PSAC, MEC and NE-10 has Earned Access while the G-MAC does not.

• The top seed from each of the four Super Regions earns a first-round bye, with the higher seeds (No. 2, No. 3, No. 4) hosting the appropriate lower seeds (No. 5, No. 6, No. 7) in the opening round on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Tuskegee, with the wrong posted record on NCAA.com official statistics, with a 9-2 overall record which includes two wins over Division I Alabama State and Jackson State (neither of which counts in Division II ranking consideration), with an SIAC championship and only one regional loss, finished the season 9th and out of the playoffs, while CIAA champion Virginia State and contender Bowie State are in.

A case of too many HBCUs being too good at once in one given season? Or an error that the NCAA should be compelled to fix to give postseason access to an HBCU that has earned it?