The University of Miami will benefit from any bowl that wants it, according to athletic director Blake James.
But a bid to a favorable Tier One bowl — despite six of 14 Atlantic Coast Conference teams making the situation more sticky with identical 7-5 records — is what the Canes (7-5, 4-4 ACC) believe they deserve, and will likely get come Sunday afternoon when bowl selections are finalized and announced.
How does a five-and-a-half-hour drive up the road to Jacksonville on New Year’s Eve sound, Canes fans? That could come to fruition if the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl gets the Hurricanes in their 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31 game against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
James wouldn’t mind.
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“I feel very good that we’ll be one of the teams selected for a Tier One bowl,’’ James told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. “My understanding is the TaxSlayer [Gator] is going to be picking an ACC team this year.
“I talked with all the bowls. Do I think there’s interest from Jacksonville and the TaxSlayer in having Miami there? I do. But I’ve talked with the other [Tier One] bowls and there’s interest from all four. And that’s a credit to Mark Richt and our staff and the history of our program that we’re an attractive option. Bowls are trying to line up games that will give them the greatest opportunity to sell tickets and get eyeballs through their television deals.
“Obviously, Jacksonville is here in the state and that would probably be easier for our fans to get to, but there are great things about all of them, and I’m looking forward to our students having a great experience wherever we end up being.”
The last time UM played in the Gator Bowl was on Jan. 1, 2000 (1999 season) against Georgia Tech, a 28-13 win for the Canes, who at that point were in the Big East.
After the College Football Playoff (and other major bowl) selections, the four ACC-affiliated Tier One bowls: The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl at 7:30 p.m Dec. 31 in Jacksonville or the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 28 in Nashville — one of the bowls picks an ACC team and the other, a Big Ten team, to face the SEC representative; the Belk Bowl at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 29 in Charlotte, North Carolina; the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York City; and the Hyundai Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.
The other, lower-profile ACC-affiliated bowls: The Military Bowl at noon Dec. 31 in Annapolis, Maryland; the Independence Bowl at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 27 in Shreveport, Louisiana; the Quick Lane Bowl at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 26 in Detroit; the Gasparilla Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 in Tampa; and the Birmingham Bowl at noon Dec. 22.
The Canes played in the Sun Bowl to finish the 2015 and 2010 seasons, both times on the losing end (and both times after a snow storm). The Belk usually likes North Carolina-based teams, and the Pinstripe usually goes for the Northeast teams.
ACC senior associate commissioner for football, Michael Strickland, told the Herald on Wednesday that the four Tier One bowls put in their preference of teams “In accordance with the detailed selection guidelines,’’ then decide among themselves who ends up where. The ACC only gets involved in the process if “the rank order is not consistent with the guidelines.’’
If more than one bowl insists it deserves a certain team, then there are “some detailed processes in our agreement that the bowls have agreed to as to how we adjudicate that tie, if you will,’’ Strickland said.
The factors as to who goes where are varied, and “no one guideline is solely determinative,’’ Strickland said. Those factors: geographic proximity of a team to a bowl site; avoidance of seasonal rematches or repeat bowl appearances over consecutive seasons or even, say, two in three seasons; opponents who might make the best possible matchup or who are connected in some significant, historical way to the ACC team; rewarding teams with better overall (not conference) records; and “valuing a division championship,’’ Strickland said, such as Pittsburgh in the Coastal Division.
However, Pittsburgh (7-5, 6-2), which lost to Miami last week and meets No. 2 Clemson in the ACC title game Saturday, would not have to play in a Tier One game. Keep in mind that overall records supersede league records.
Strickland also stressed that “all other things being equal, we’d like to keep people closer to their footprint. What we want to avoid is a scenario where we have three or four teams crisscrossing one another up and down the east coast or across the country when that might not make sense to do so.”
Though UM played in the Sun Bowl three years ago, Strickland said, “three or four years since a last appearance is probably not too big of a concern’’ in terms of whether a bowl would be dissuaded from preferring a certain team. The Sun Bowl, however, seems unlikely according to several projections.
And despite James’ belief that the Canes will land in a Tier One bowl, it is not out of the question that they get chosen by one of the lower-profile bowls, such as the Independence, where they are projected by at least four college football writers.
Either way, the Canes will learn their destination “no earlier than 3:30 p.m. Sunday,’’ Strickland said.
“Obviously, the strength of our brand nationally and the success of our program has shown historically that people are going to watch Miami and come out and buy tickets,’’ James said. “I think we’re in a good position.’’