Tuesday, December 3, 2013 11:30 AM
Orange Bowl official breaks down Clemson's BCS bowl chances
by David Hood
Senior Writer

Playing in a BCS bowl game means increased visibility and a larger payout, but Clemson’s chances of playing in a BCS game this postseason hinge on what happens this weekend, and whether the Tigers will retain a Top 14 ranking in the BCS once the conference championship games play out, according to an Orange Bowl official.

The Tigers – fresh off a 31-17 loss to South Carolina last Saturday – dropped to 13th in the BCS, and need to hold close to that spot once the rankings are released next Sunday in order to have a shot at playing in a BCS game, probably the Orange Bowl.

I spoke with Larry Wahl, the VP of Communications & Community Outreach for the Orange Bowl Monday evening, and he told me that the Orange Bowl Committee held a conference call Monday morning to discuss their options, and while the Tigers are still very much a viable option, it’s still too early to give a percentage.

However, the ACCs’s tie-in with the Orange Bowl is an obvious plus for the 10-2 Tigers.

“We have always waited until after the last game and we get the results of the rankings before we make any final, final decisions on teams,” Wahl told me. “It’s hard to even speculate at this point because there is so much that could happen. But obviously, a key consideration in our deliberations is going to be the fact that the ACC is our partner. But to give you a percentage or anything at this point, I can’t do that because I just don’t know. Even if Clemson had won Saturday, we would be in the same situation that has always been our philosophy.”

Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich said Monday that he spoke with Orange Bowl officials, and one of their concerns in picking Clemson would be ticket sales after sales lagged for Clemson’s appearance in the 2012 Orange Bowl.

“In my conversations with Orange Bowl officials on Sunday afternoon, their primary concerns about Clemson center on ticket sales and team ranking,” Radakovich wrote in an open letter to Clemson fans and IPTAY boosters Monday. “While the team won 10 games and remains ranked among the top in the nation, the only thing we can control now are ticket sales. It is critical that we support our team by letting the Orange Bowl know our fans are interested in attending the game and buying tickets.”

Radakovich went on to say that while Clemson has been steadily climbing back into the national rankings, fan support in bowl games hasn’t been at a peak level.

“Regardless of our postseason destination, we cannot emphasize enough the need for our fans to utilize our athletic ticket office to purchase tickets,” Radakovich wrote. “The last time we sold at least 10,000 tickets through the athletic ticket office for a bowl game was the 2009 Gator Bowl against Nebraska. With more than 20,000 Clemson fans at each of our last three bowl games, there is no question that our fans have purchased bowl tickets through third parties and the secondary marketplace, but we need your help in purchasing tickets through the athletic ticket office. This make a huge statement with the bowls and their committees.”

Part of the issue with the 2012 bowl game was the late date after New Year’s – January 4th – and the fact that the game was played on a Wednesday, making it hard for Clemson fans to make the trip. Wahl said he hoped the date for the 2014 Orange Bowl – Friday, January 3rd – would make it easier for fans to travel.

“Hopefully, if Clemson were chosen and to come, the date would be more advantageous,” Wahl said. “The game is on a Friday this time, so it’s still on the New Year’s holiday for a lot of people, so it would give them the opportunity to travel both down here and back. So, from that perspective, it’s a much more advantageous time and date.”

Clemson played West Virginia in 2012, and Wahl said that he thinks this time around, the matchup might be a little more attractive.

“Given that we have the first pick, I think the opponent will be one that is probably perceived to be better than the last time,” Wahl said. “So that might be one of those things to get people excited, too. There are a lot of good options for us to choose from this time, as opposed to last time.”

The Orange Bowl has the first pick once the National Championship teams are selected. If Florida St. beats Duke Saturday in the ACC Championship Game, the Seminoles will likely play in the National Championship in Pasadena, California. The Orange Bowl then gets to pick the FSU replacement, and if they decide to honor the tie-in with the ACC and Clemson is still ranked in the Top 14 of the BCS, they would have the option of picking Clemson as that replacement.

Once the other replacement picks are made, the Orange Bowl would then have the chance to pick the first team that didn’t automatically qualify for the BCS through a conference championship. If the season ended today, that would more than likely be Alabama.

“Here is what happens,” Wahl said. “The conference champions are placed in their respective bowl, and then the two bowls that lose the conference champions to the National Championship gets to replace them in order. If FSU stays number one, we will have the first replacement pick, and then the Rose Bowl, and on down the line. Right now, we just don’t know who would be out there.

“For Clemson, they have to be in the Top 14, and hopefully they remain in the Top 14. And then once the replacement picks are made, the Orange picks from the next available at-larges, so out of picks eight, nine and ten, we would pick eighth. If you look at the way it is today, that would be Alabama, and then UCF and NIU. Clemson is in the mix, but even if Clemson wasn’t chosen as a replacement pick, they could still be chosen by another BCS bowl.”

A potential matchup against Alabama would have a plethora of storylines – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is an Alabama graduate, and former Clemson assistants Billy Napier, Burton Burns, Chris Rumph and Kevin Steele are all on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama.

David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com