Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Has Star Power BCS Snub of Hokies Is Jacksonville's Gain

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Has Star Power BCS Snub of Hokies Is Jacksonville's Gain

Article excerpt

On the surface, it should have been a no-brainer for the Fiesta or Sugar Bowls: invite fifth-ranked, 10-1 Virginia Tech, with its hordes of enthusiastic fans and thrill-a-minute quarterback Michael Vick, and match the Hokies against Florida or Notre Dame in an entertaining intrasectional game.

But as it often does when it comes to the postseason in college football, politics entered the picture, when the Pac-10 threatened to break its contract with the Bowl Championship Series if 10-1 Oregon State wasn't invited to the Fiesta.

With the Sugar Bowl bent on pitting Miami vs. Florida for the first time since 1987, guess which team was left out?

The BCS's loss was the Toyota Gator Bowl's gain, as Virginia Tech was then invited to play Clemson Monday at Alltel Stadium (NBC, 12:30 p.m.). And even though it meant a difference in payout of $13 million to $1.4 million -- no small amount for a school trying to raise money for a new stadium -- the Hokies are putting a brave and magnanimous spin on coming to Jacksonville for the second time in four years.

"From a financial standpoint, it was disappointing," said Tech coach Frank Beamer. "But that's the only one. We could not go to a more friendly place, with better hospitality, than Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl."

"We feel fortunate to be in Jacksonville," added Vick, who forms one-half of a potentially potent quarterback battle against Clemson's Woody Dantzler. "We can't dwell on what the BCS did. We're going to go down there and play a great game, and try to show everyone we're one of the best teams in the nation."

Tech and Clemson arrive in town today and will participate in the official team welcoming reception at 5 p.m. at Dave & Buster's restaurant, which is open to the public.

The teams begin practice tomorrow, Tech at Fletcher High School in Jacksonville Beach and Clemson at The Bolles School, with both workouts closed to the public. However, they will make several other public appearances, such as the Kennel Club Party Thursday at the Orange Park Kennel Club (7:30 p.m.), and Friday at Adventure Landing on Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach (4-8 p.m.)

Expect hefty doses of "we're just glad to be here," stances from Virginia Tech officials, coaches and players, even if they're smarting from their BCS snub. It would be especially understandable if there are hurt feelings after Tech played in the Sugar Bowl twice and the Orange Bowl once in a five-year span between 1995-2000, bringing hordes of fans and helping create entertaining games each time.

However, Tech doesn't appear to be hanging its collective head over spending New Year's in Jacksonville.

"It's a little disappointing," admitted junior linebacker Ben Taylor. "We've been to some pretty big bowls. But the Gator Bowl is a great bowl also."

"The only thing we can do now is focus on beating Clemson Jan. …

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