Commentary: Should Clemson Fans Be Feeling Peachy?


by - Correspondent -
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Gary Stokan's week hasn't gotten off to such a great start.

Don't misunderstand. As President of the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl, this is Stokan's time of year. "The fun time," he calls it.

But business has been more difficult than fun the past couple of days, primarily thanks to Clemson.

Not the school. Its fans.

Sensing just a sniff of a possible Peach Bowl berth, Tiger fans went to work en masse in recent days. The Peach Bowl office has been flooded with phone calls, emails and faxes, all from Clemson supporters extolling the virtues of having their favorite team in Atlanta for the Dec. 30 matchup with an SEC opponent.

The same tactic has been used before. Back in late 2001, the Humanitarian Bowl (now the MPC Computer Bowl) needed an opponent for Louisiana Tech on the blue turf in Boise, Idaho. Clemson, wrapping up a 6-5 regular season, needed a place to go bowling.

Tiger fans assaulted bowl director Gary Beck's office with emails and faxes, helping generate an interest that eventually won Clemson the visit to Boise (it should be pointed out that the ACC's willingness to help foot the bill that year didn't hurt, either).

But Stokan needs no such help, apparently. In fact, speaking on my daily sports talk show today, Stokan nicely - but firmly, clearly out of frustration - asked Clemson fans to cease and desist. Immediately.

"All the faxing and emailing doesn't have a positive or negative effect one way or the other," Stokan said Tuesday morning. "We've had Clemson here more than any other team in the country. We know them well...We've worked well together in the past.

"So Clemson people, please back off on the faxes and emails...My computer is backed up and I'm not able to do business here."

As it turned out, those statements - and the fact that there would be no rivalry games revisited (Clemson-USC, Georgia-Georgia Tech, etc.) virtually were the only direct answers Stokan gave in the nearly 15 minute interview.

He danced and dodged around most of my inquiries, such as who the favorites for the game would be, or how much influence ACC commissioner John Swofford has on the bowl selection process. At the end of the interview, after we said goodbye, the only thing that came to mind - and I think I said this on the air - was that "we didn't learn anything here today."

Well, maybe one thing.

And perhaps it was just me reading something into Stokan's tone that wasn't there. But although he never specifically said as much, after the interview was complete I had a strong feeling that Tiger fans can forget the Peach Bowl this year.

Maybe I read too much into it. But the tone, the dancing, the continuous mentions of the ACC and SEC championship games; something about his manner told me Clemson is better off looking toward Orlando or Charlotte for this year's bowl game.

Then again, maybe I am over-analyzing. Tuesday afternoon, in his weekly blog on the Peach Bowl website (www.peachbowl.com), Leeman Bennett has added the Tigers to the teams the bowl is watching from the ACC. Clemson was not on that list a week ago.

All I know for sure is this. Officials from the bowl in Charlotte said last week that Clemson wouldn't slip below them in the ACC's selection process. If they are to be believed, the Meineke Car Care Bowl - likely vs. South Florida - is the worst the Tigers can do this bowl season.

A trip to Orlando would probably mean a meeting with Colorado.

Either way, Clemson fans should get behind the bowl of choice, whichever it may be. Because with a win the Tigers will finish 8-4 and end the season in the Top 25 for the second time in three seasons.

And folks, thinking back to the state of mind around here after the Oct. 1 loss at Wake Forest, that kind of finish wouldn't be bad at all.

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