Embarrassed by seeing 6-7 UCLA in a bowl game, then losing to finish 6-8, the NCAA came up with some new criteria to deal with teams like that, as well as what to do if there aren't enough bowl eligible teams.
On that list, teams in UCLA's situation were deemed the third-most bowl worthy. Not first. Not second. Third.
Theoretcially, waivers would no longer be accpted. Teams like UCLA had to hope there would be room for them.
But this is the NCAA. Rules were made to be selectively enforced. This year, we get Georgia Tech, currently 6-6 and playing for the ACC title aginst mighty Florida State. So, they begged for mercy from the NCAA, and the NCAA yet again has granted it.