Bowden Secures Second Bowl Bid

by - Correspondent -
The bowl bid comes while Bowden and the Tigers are in the midst of preparing for arch-rival South Carolina.

CLEMSON -- Tommy Bowden's weekly press conferences always provide Clemson's coach an opportunity to display his sense of humor, usually at the expense of the media asking the questions.

So when Gator Bowl Association Chairman Leerie Jenkins phoned in the middle of Tuesday's briefing to invite the Tigers to the New Year's Day game in Jacksonville, the coach couldn't pass up the opportunity to perform for an audience in two states.

Bowden, his characteristic timing never better, glanced toward Sports Information Director Tim Bourret and deadpanned, "Can I accept? There's no president or athletic director here, just Tim."

To which Bourret, ever the faithful straightman, nodded the okay and replied to a room full of laughter, "You rank ahead of me."

And with that Vaudeville-esque exchange out of the way, minus only the seltzer bottle, Bowden secured Clemson's eighth bid to the Gator Bowl in school history, its first since a 41-0 defeat by Syracuse in 1995.

"If I'm allowed to, I graciously accept," Bowden said. "I know our team will be very excited."

The invitation comes at a rather odd time for the Tigers, who are in the midst of preparing for the final game of the regular season - Saturday's matchup with arch-rival South Carolina. Both teams currently own two-game losing streaks, meaning this weekend's meeting at Death Valley promises to be more intense than ever.

So it was no surprise that Bowden sidestepped discussing a possible matchup with Virginia Tech or Notre Dame, choosing instead to keep his focus on the 7-3 Gamecocks.

"That's what I need," he laughed. "All I need to be doing in front of these 60-70 members of the media is answering questions about the Gator Bowl instead of South Carolina. That'll make the papers (today)."

Tommy Bowden Press Conference Chad Carson on ACC vs SEC Robert Carswell on facing USC Will Merritt on growing up a Clemson fans Willie Simmons with an outside the state view of the rivalry Justin Watts on what this game means to the instate players

Tuesday's happenings mark the second bowl bid in as many tries for Clemson under Bowden. The Tigers finished the regular season 6-5 a year ago, Bowden's first season, and went to the Peach Bowl where they lost to Mississippi State.

The current invitation was made possible when the Bowl Championship Series committee officially announced it would not consider Clemson for one of the two at-large berths in the BCS bowls. Florida State, who sealed the ACC championship two weeks ago with a 54-7 win over the Tigers, clinched an automatic berth in the BCS and currently is fighting for yet another national championship.

The Gator Bowl, given the second pick from the ACC, chose Clemson over Georgia Tech despite the Yellow Jackets' 31-28 defeat of the Tigers earlier this season. Both teams finished with 6-2 conference records, but Georgia Tech has played in the Gator Bowl in each of the past two seasons, making Clemson and its anticipated huge crowd more attractive to the committee.

Exactly who the Tigers will face on Jan. 1 remains to be seen. If Notre Dame qualifies for a BCS bowl and Virginia Tech doesn't, the Hokies will be Clemson's opponent. But if the Fighting Irish don't make the BCS lineup, they then take one of the bowl slots allotted for the Big East.

That would allow the Gator Bowl to select Notre Dame as Clemson's foe.

The final decision will be made after the BCS Series selections on Dec. 3.

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