STORRS – A week ago, when the University of Connecticut campus became awash with the buzz word “BCS,” Assistant Dean Paul W. Betts wondered what all the hullabaloo was about.
After all, the department he headed, Biology Central Services, BCS for short, had been a Storrs staple for years, a central administrative unit which dutifully provides support for UConn’s three academic biology departments.
We kid Dean Betts, of course, because like everyone else on campus – and throughout Connecticut, for that matter – he knew quite well that besides referring to his department, BCS stands for Bowl Championship Series, a coalition of five post-season bowl games that feature the best teams in college football for that year.
And whether the killjoys around the country like it or not, UConn is one of this year’s 10 teams. “The media can say whatever they want. Who cares? We are still going,” said co-captain Zach Hurd, a graduate of Waterford High School.
Yes, the Huskies are still going to the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona to play Big 12 champion Oklahoma on the evening of Jan. 1 in front of a national television audience.
And this has upset more than a few bloggers and columnists across the country, who say UConn’s presence in a BCS Bowl game somehow diminishes the stature of these post-season meccas.
Critics crisscrossed the Web, decrying Connecticut’s 8-4 record, pointing out that 25th-ranked UConn didn’t crack the Top 25 until after the team’s twelfth game of the season, using the Las Vegas line making the Huskies a real dog, a 17-point underdog, one of the biggest in BCS history, clamoring for the elimination of the automatic BCS berth awarded to the Big East and using an NCAA stat showing that UConn played the 75th toughest FBS schedule in 2010 while Oklahoma’s list of opponents was ranked 12th in the nation.
But what all those naysayers and self-proclaimed experts failed to do when citing all those statistics is to look beyond the numbers into the heart and soul of Coach Randy Edsall’s team, a group of young men who have endured and bounced back from more adversity over the past two years than most college athletes ever do.
“People said we would lose against South Florida and we won. We don’t care what anyone else says,” Hurd said. “It’s the people on our team, the players, the coaches, the supporting staff – those are the only people I care about.”
Last we knew, none of those critics had told the 6-foot-7, 324-pound offensive lineman to his face that the Huskies didn’t belong in the Fiesta Bowl.
It’s a great story
Bottom line, the only people who had a vote in the choice felt Connecticut was a worthy opponent for Oklahoma.
“We are thrilled and excited to have Connecticut coming here to play, it’s a great story,” said Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Public Relations Director Tony Alba who was in Storrs Monday (Dec. 13) meeting with local media.
“Coach Edsall has done a terrific job, raising this program from infancy and proving success can be achieved by doing things the right way,” Alba said.
For his part, Edsall said the national spotlight of a BCS Bowl is just one more step the school’s athletic programs have taken to put the University of Connecticut in the forefront of the national consciousness.
“I think it’s a tremendous boost for the university. A tremendous honor for the university. It brings more national attention to the school. You get all this publicity for the next month. Then on January 1st, that night, when we have the game on prime time television,” Edsall said, “it’s going to bring a tremendous amount of exposure to the university, to our state and to the football program. I think everybody benefits from that.”
Big East honors
Edsall was named the Big East Coach of the Year and junior running back Jordan Todman was named the conference’ Offensive Player of the Year.
Coach and player were instrumental in leading the Huskies to a share of the Big East crown, overcoming an 0-2 start in league play to win the final five games of the season, punctuated by a gut-checking, gut-churning 19-16 win in Tampa over South Florida when Dave Teggart booted a 52-yard field goal through the uprights with only 17 seconds remaining in the game.
That gave UConn a share of the title with Pittsburgh and West Virginia, but the Huskies got the league’s automatic BCS bid because they had beaten both the Panthers and the Mountaineers during the regular season.
According to BCS protocol, the Big East winner can play in either the Orange Bowl in Miami or the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale.
Alba explained the selection process as an orderly one designed to fill the 10 slots one at a time: The top two teams go to the championship game, which is in Glendale as well this year. Then the conferences that have commitments to send their champions to a specific bowl are accommodated.
Thus, Oklahoma automatically got slotted to the Fiesta Bowl because that bowl has agreed to always take the Big 12 champ.
Then there is a predetermined order in which the bowls can fill any remaining slots with qualifying teams.
Alba said because the championship game is being held in the Fiesta Bowl this year, that bowl had the final selection when it came to pairings. Basically, Connecticut was the final team slotted among the 10 BCS Bowl teams.
But they were most deserving of the bid, said Alba. “Anytime you win your conference you’re a good team,” he said.
Posted Dec. 13, 2010