The University of Minnesota Got Into and Won a Bowl Game With a 5-7 Record


Dec. 27 2023, Published 11:15 a.m. ET

The Minnesota football team posing after winning the Quick Lane Bowl in 2023
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • The Minnesota Golden Gophers won the Quick Lane Bowl despite a 5-7 record thanks to a tiebreaker that determined the team was the most academically excellent 5-7 team in the NCAA.
  • Minnesota had won six straight bowls and extended that streak to seven with a win over Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl.
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Usually, bowl games in college football are reserved for teams that have proven themselves to be excellent at some point during the regular season. That's why it may seem odd that the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers got the chance to play Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl at the end of the 2023 season.

Minnesota may have prevailed during the bowl game, but given that the team had just a 5-7 record, many sports fans were scratching their heads about how Minnesota wound up in a bowl game to begin with. In this case, it seems like the team's record had very little to do with it.

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PJ Fleck coaching Minnesota during the Quick Lane Bowl.
Source: Getty Images

Why did the University of Minnesota get a bowl game?

As it turns out, Minnesota won the exact amount of games it needed to to compete in the Quick Lane Bowl. Out of all the NCAA teams that had won five games this season, Minnesota had the highest Academic Progress Rate, meaning they were chosen for the bowl game in part because of how good the team's performance was in the classroom. Minnesota has a history of success at this Bowl Game, and won it again this year.

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"Maybe on the field we didn't have enough wins, but we talk about why these men are student-athletes, celebrating their success not only on the field but also in the classroom," Fleck told the Associated Press. "We're the example of that this year."

Minnesota was the worst team to compete in a Bowl this year. There were 82 teams required for this year's bowl games, and only 79 teams eligible to fill those slots.

As a result, three schools got the opportunity despite having less-than-stellar resumes. Two were filled by James Madison and Jacksonville State, who otherwise wouldn't have been allowed to play in a bowl game because they just recently earned FCS status. The last slot was filled by Minnesota because the tie-breaker involved academics instead of something about their play on the field.

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Minnesota was the only team with a losing record to compete in a bowl game, and they extended their streak of winning six straight bowl games with a victory over Bowling Green, who had a winning record during the season.

While most of the highest-profile college football games happen at the very end of the year, Minnesota's victory is a reminder that academic excellence can be a reward, even for athletes playing at a very high level. If the players didn't have the grades, Minnesota would never have even had the opportunity to compete in this particular game.

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