Dipping into the mailbag

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OK, time to finish off the day with an e-mail from Navy fan Rob Wittmaack, who chimed in with some thoughts on Maryland and Navy’s near-encounter in 2006. It was a topic I grazed parenthetically yesterday when discussing why the schools probably won’t meet in this year’s Congressional Bowl.

Your article regarding Maryland “ducking” Navy seeming silly leaves out an important aspect. Maryland naturally wants to go to the “best” bowl game possible, as does every school/team.

However in order to get to the Champs Sports Bowl they would need to be picked before a higher ranked 9-3 Boston College team at 8-4 and having lost to BC by 22 points.

If the argument is silly to avoid Navy in the bowl game, why didn’t Maryland try for a BCS game instead of a lower bowl?

It is Navy’s belief - as was reported in the drama between the two ADs when trying to work out a regular season game earlier this year - that Maryland had to lobby pretty hard to avoid the game. It wasn’t that Maryland wanted the best bowl game possible, it was that they “leap-frogged” Boston College to get to that bowl game accompanied by the reports that Maryland lobbied hard to get to Orlando and not have to play Navy.

Granted, there are many factors which contribute to a bowl committee picking a particular school over another.

This is not uncharted waters, to be sure.

Some of this comes from folks at Navy wanting this matchup in the ‘06 Meineke Car Care Bowl, thinking Maryland wants it and then being stunned when Maryland in fact wants to go to a bowl that’s higher on the ACC’s pecking order.

Now, here’s how the bowl selection worked in 2006, the first year the ACC had its “One-Win” rule in place to protect a 6-2 team in league play from being snubbed in favor of a 4-4 team.

* Wake Forest won the league and went to the Orange Bowl.

* The Chick-Fil-A Bowl had a choice between Georgia Tech (7-1) and Virginia Tech (6-2). The Hokies were picked.

* With no other 6-2 teams, the Gator Bowl was obligated to take Georgia Tech.

* The Champs Sports Bowl got the next pick among three 5-3 teams: Boston College, Clemson and Maryland. Clemson had been the previous year, and Boston College has an awful travel history. Maryland (certainly with some lobbying on their part) was the logical choice.

Now, was not having to deal with Navy’s triple-option offense and the possible perception hit of losing to the service academy just down Route 50 turn out to be a bonus? Absolutely.

Would Maryland have faced a sterner test in Navy than Purdue, a team the Terps routed 24-7? Having seen ‘06 Navy (against Tulsa and Notre Dame), ‘06 Purdue (against Maryland) and ‘06 Maryland (against everybody) all in person, I can say the Terps would have received at least a serious scare from Navy. They didn’t against Purdue.

Something that should be emphasized is how much Boston College’s reputation as “bowl kryptonite” played a role in this. That “One-Win” rule mentioned earlier? It was instituted mainly because BC tied for the Atlantic Division title in 2005 and fell all the way to the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise (ACC #8).

Boston College, with a ranked team, a rout of Maryland and an identical conference record as the Terps, could have wound up in the Champs Sports Bowl (ACC #4) in 2006. Instead, the Eagles landed in the Meineke Car Care Bowl (ACC #6) opposite Navy.

Need more proof? Last year, Boston College won the Atlantic Division outright, entered November unbeaten, had a Heisman candidate at quarterback and won at Clemson before falling in the ACC title game. But the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (ACC #2) still took Clemson and its horde of fans, the Gator Bowl (ACC #3) selected Virginia to avoid having BC in town for the second time in a month and the Eagles wound up in the Champs Sports Bowl (ACC #4).

Having seen the scant showing of Boston College fans at last year’s ACC title game in Jacksonville – they were responsible for some of those TEAL seats – for myself, I can understand why bowls aren’t falling over themselves to get the Eagles into their game.

Did Maryland want to play Navy in 2006? Not especially; if the athletic department really wanted that matchup, it probably could have twisted some arms and made it happen. But Maryland got a prime-time game rather than one in the early afternoon, and the team got to spend a week in Orlando rather than Charlotte. Maryland’s position is pretty understandable.

But the team that really smoothed the way for the Terps’  trip to the 1930s erector set known as the Florida Citrus Bowl possible was Boston College. There’s an expansion-era axiom that has quickly become apparent in the ACC: If there’s some way BC can get the shaft in terms of bowl assignments, it almost certainly will.

And if there’s collateral damage – like not having a Crab Bowl in Charlotte – then so be it.

 – Patrick Stevens

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