Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sun Bowl chair says UConn still in picture

Don't pack the winter parka and turtle neck sweater for Toronto just yet. UConn could still be in the discussion for the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. Granted, the Huskies will need lots of help. And they'll also have to survive an impromptu vote from the Sun Bowl committee Saturday night. But there's a chance. Here's the deal.

I just spoke with John Folmer, the chairman of the Sun Bowl committee. He'll be at Rentschler Field Saturday along with Bernie Olivas, the Sun Bowl executive director. Folmer said he and Olivas are there mainly for Pittsburgh, and will personally invite the Panthers to El Paso for New Year's Eve with a victory in a ceremony inside the visitor's locker room at Rentschler. (As long as Rutgers beats Louisville tomorrow night, that is...) "That's the plan," Folmer said. "If Pittsburgh wins, we'll invite them right there in the locker room."

That's the simple scenario.

If UConn knocks off Pitt AND West Virginia loses to South Florida, it becomes a three-way race for the Sun Bowl bid. The three? Pitt, West Virginia and UConn, who would all be 4-3 in the Big East. Rutgers, despite a potential 5-2 conference mark and second-place all to itself in that scenario, is apparently already out of the picture.

"I don't think Rutgers would be the best choice," said Folmer, who doesn't have a vote unless the committee is deadlocked.

Should Rutgers, UConn and South Florida all win, Folmer said, he and Olivas would scrap the post-game ceremony and retreat to their hotel room to initiate a conference call with the bowl committee. Whoever gets the majority vote gets the invitation, and Folmer and Olivas would inform the Big East that evening.

"We'd have to decide on a head-to-head basis to see who would be best," Folmer said. "Connecticut brings a lot to the table; the New York (television) market and the eastern market, which is important."

Based on what Folmer said, overall records play a large factor in the choice. UConn and Pitt may have the edge because both will be 8-4 overall while West Virginia would be 7-5. Plus, UConn will have beaten the Panthers (as well as conference champ Cincinnati). All three teams have some star power, with Shady McCoy of Pitt, Pat White of West Virginia and Donald Brown of UConn (though White has the most name recognition right now, and will certainly keep the Mountaineers in the discussion despite a possible 7-5 record).

"With UConn, you get a team that has won their way into a bowl game as opposed to a team that has lost their way into a bowl game," Folmer said. "It makes a big difference on attitude (with the committee). Quite frankly, all these bowls are concerned with how many tickets they can sell. We don't have that problem in El Paso. We sell all the tickets we can sell locally and usually ask the teams to take a little under 8,000. If they can't sell all of them, that's not a problem because we can certainly get rid of them."

Should be quite an interesting Saturday.
  • If UConn loses, its certain to go bowling in Toronto. A story in the Charlotte Observer says the Meineke Car Care Bowl has tabbed North Carolina as its top choice. The Huskies weren't under serious consideration since they played in Charlotte last year, but the Tar Heels are the deal-breaker. Since both UConn and Rutgers have already faced UNC this season, neither are likely opponents. Rutgers played in Toronto last season, so its not the top choice of the folks north of the border. With the Sun Bowl not a realistic option, the Scarlet Knights seem destined for the papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham. The Meineke Bowl will wind up with either Pitt or West Virginia. Bank on it.

  • One problem with the Charlotte story linked above is that the reporter doesn't realize the Meineke Bowl is slotted behind the Gator and Sun Bowl in the Big East pecking order. Pitt may end up in Charlotte, but only if it loses to UConn. Not the other way around, as the story says.

  • D.J. Hernandez is getting his master's degree in educational psychology at UConn in hopes of becoming a high school guidance counselor. He also wants to coach high school football, with his dream scenario counseling and coaching at his alma mater, Bristol Central.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Gary said...

Chip,
On the Sun Bowl website they have a poll asking who you want to see in the game. UConn isn't even on the list;

Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia

And Pittsburgh and Rutgers are far and away the two leading vote-getters.

Not that the poll on the site really means anything, but I just found it interesting.

Also, in your opinion, which bowl gives UConn more exposure? The Sun Bowl can get buried on New Years Eve, but the International Bowl on January 3rd has it's own showcase on that day. I know the Sun Bowl has more cache, but for national exposure and recruiting, which is more beneficial?

Sorry for the long post.

December 04, 2008 8:26 AM 
Blogger Chip Malafronte said...

Gary,

I wouldn't put too much stock in that list. I doubt the list had any input from the selction committee, and I believe Pitt and Rutgers have fan website campaigns to stuff the ballot box. John Folmer, the committee chair, told me it would be tough to take Rutgers because of its record. The bowl has never had a 6-6 team, and would be making an exception for Notre Dame because its Notre Dame.

I think the Sun Bowl is much better in terms of exposure for UConn. It's a CBS game in the southwestern U.S. against a Pac-10 opponent, and showcases the program to areas that know little about the Huskies. I would think recruits will be far more impressed with UConn in the Sun Bowl (playing against USC or Oregon, for example) than the International Bowl against Buffalo or Western Michigan.

That said...I still think UConn is heading to Toronto.

December 04, 2008 10:48 AM 
Anonymous Gary said...

Thanks Chip,

I assumed the list meant nothing, just found it interesting.

It's amazing that this will be UConn's third bowl already, this program is far exceeding expectations. A couple of coulda-woulda-shoulda's away from a BCS this season, amazing.

December 04, 2008 11:26 AM 

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