Saturday was supposed to be a pretty euphoric day for the EagleBank Bowl.
After all, it needed one of Clemson, N.C. State and Virginia to win to even get an ACC team locked into its game as an opponent for Navy.
When both Clemson and State collected victories, it meant the game would have a choice.
Except it doesn’t look like it will.
And here’s why.
The winner of this week’s ACC title game between Virginia Tech and Boston College heads to the Orange Bowl; the loser will fall no further than the Music City Bowl. Florida State and Georgia Tech seem like sure things to go among the league’s top four bowl selections. Clemson will get snatched up by someone reasonably quickly.
North Carolina could be on the board for the Charlotte-based Meineke Car Care Bowl. Miami, a national name in a big TV market, is exactly the sort of team the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco would like to have in its game to pair with a Pac-10 team (possibly Cal).
So let’s presume those are the first seven teams selected. That leaves Maryland, N.C. State and Wake Forest —- and all have reasons they can’t play in the Dec. 20 game at RFK Stadium.
* Maryland finishes final exams that day. So an ideal fit for the first-year game is off the table.
* N.C. State is 6-6, and with nine other teams with winning records, is the odd team out because of NCAA rules.
Michael Kelly, the ACC’s associate commissioner for football, said in an e-mail he received this interpretation from the NCAA:
“Clemson is essentially a 6-5 team as it relates to bowl eligibility and, as such, is a ‘bowl eligible team with a winning record’ which must be accommodated by one of our existing bowl agreements. We will continue to search for an at-large slot for NC State…that process will probably not reach closure until Sunday after all games have been played.”
So the Wuffies and coach (and Naval Academy grad) Tom O’Brien will have to jump in the at-large pool.
* That leaves Wake Forest. But the Demon Deacons already played Navy, and athletic director Chet Gladchuk said there is an agreement “the Naval Academy and the bowl would not engage in a rematch.”
“We’ve already played them once; they already played us,” Gladchuk said. “You go to bowls to play someone different. That’s what the bowls are about —- a new opponent, new fan bases, new clientele. It’s something that’s a little more of a novelty.”
So that leaves … nobody. The only way this could be worse for all involved is if Virginia had also won, and a team from less than three hours away was denied a spot because of the same rule that is excluding N.C. State.
It’s a giant mess, and one that will linger for a few more days, since ACC bowl selection typically isn’t unveiled until right after the BCS selections.
This one’s heading for an unexpected conclusion, because at this stage pretty much every possible outcome is unexpected.
—- Patrick Stevens