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Big East bowl picture is coming into focus early
The Sun or Car Care bowls appear the most likely for USF if the Bulls finish 9-3.
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 21, 2007
TAMPA - While most of college football must wait another weekend to sort out the bowls, the Big East could have its matches in place next week if West Virginia can beat Connecticut and clinch the league's automatic BCS berth.
Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett, whose game can choose a team from the Big East or Big 12, said Tuesday that the Jacksonville bowl is pleased with its Big 12 options and has all but ruled out selecting a Big East team.
"We haven't closed the door, but that's the way we're leaning, heavily," said Catlett, whose worst Big 12 scenario would be the league's fifth team, likely an 8-4 Texas Tech team that just upset Oklahoma. "We want to preserve our options for next season, and the consensus of our selection committee Monday was to go in that direction."
The Gator and Sun bowls each get two Big East and two Big 12 teams over the four-year span that started last season, and the Gator chooses first each year. Because West Virginia played in Jacksonville last season, picking a Big East team this season would lock the Gator into the Big 12 for the remaining two years.
Catlett also said it is "likely" that the Gator on Sunday would be able to notify the Big East of its commitment to the Big 12. If West Virginia wins Saturday, Connecticut would be out of contention for an at-large BCS berth, allowing the Big East's four affiliated bowls (Sun, Meineke Car Care, Papajohns.com and International) to announce their teams early, which would help with ticket sales.
"Absolutely, we know the importance of releasing these teams early," Catlett said. "We're talking to the Sun Bowl and talking with (Big East commissioner) Mike Tranghese every week, and we probably only need one more week to know where we want to go."
Bernie Olivas, executive director of the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, said his committee met Monday and was largely divided among what would likely be three 9-3 teams: USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut. He said his committee will consider the teams' rankings, conference record and head-to-head results, though not necessarily in that order.
"We know that USF lost to both Cincinnati and Connecticut, but we also know South Florida might be the highest ranked team of the three," said Olivas, who has seen three USF games in person but has yet to see the Bearcats or Huskies.
The BCS team will get $2-million from the Big East, the Gator/Sun team will get $1.5-million and the other three bowls will result in a $1-million payout from the Big East. The conference will also pay between $100,000 and $400,000 for travel costs, the amount varying on the distance traveled.
USF is unlikely to return to Birmingham, Ala., after playing there last year, and it's doubtful the International Bowl in Toronto would choose USF because the travel distance would limit ticket sales from Bulls fans.
That likely leaves the Sun (against a Pac-10 team) or the Meineke Car Care (against an ACC team) in Charlotte, N.C., where USF made its bowl debut two years ago.
Of all the Big East bowls, the Sun has the best local attendance and a low allocation of 8,000 tickets to its Big East representative, which would make USF a reasonable possibility if the Bulls win at Pittsburgh and Connecticut loses to West Virginia.
"Any bowl, to me, is an honor," USF coach Jim Leavitt said.