The Maryland football team couldn't beat Boston College during the regular season, but the Terps got the upper hand yesterday afternoon in a meeting behind closed doors.
The Champs Sports Bowl selected Maryland over Boston College and Clemson, and the Terps will end their season Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla., where they will face Purdue at 8 p.m. Maryland won a vote by a committee of about 200 scouts, who deliberated for more than two hours to pick from among three teams that finished with 5-3 records in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division.
"We had three very deserving football teams to talk about in Clemson, Maryland and Boston College," said Steve Hogan, executive director for Florida Citrus Sports. "I would just say it was a rigorous discussion. You couldn't have gone wrong with any of the three of them, but we're real excited to have the Terps coming here."
After falling one win short of the ACC championship game, where the winner advances to the Orange Bowl, the Terps were left to wait and wonder where their postseason would be.
Meanwhile, Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said she and coach Ralph Friedgen "made it clear" to top officials at the Champs Sports Bowl that Orlando was their "first choice." The other two bowls that expressed serious interest in the Terps were the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., where Navy is playing, and the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
"Of the bowls who were seriously looking at us, this is where we wanted to go, and we're absolutely delighted," Yow said.
"This is a bowl that has been on people's minds here in Maryland and Terrapins who live elsewhere for several weeks, especially since the end of the regular season," Yow added. "There's been a lot of discussion about it."
It is Maryland's fourth bowl appearance in the past six seasons and fulfills the Terps' goal of returning to a bowl game after back-to-back 5-6 seasons.
It was an accomplishment that Friedgen said yesterday was "really important," but one that was quickly overshadowed when the Terps reached the eight-win mark and put themselves in position to win the ACC title. Maryland still exceeded expectations with its 8-4 finish, including wins over Florida State and Miami.
"It was a goal of our team; that's why I think this is such a great reward for them, to go play in a warm-weather bowl," Friedgen said. "I think that's very exciting to our players. ... I can't tell you how elated I am. I'm just very excited for our players, and I know they're going to play their very best."
Friedgen said he interrupted the team's study hall yesterday afternoon with the news and the players "let out a loud cheer." It was the first good news they had heard since the regular season ended on a sour note with losses against Boston College and Wake Forest.
Many thought the Terps were bound for Charlotte, where officials at the Meineke Car Care Bowl had the Terps at the top of their list. But the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Gator Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl got to choose in that order, followed by the Music City Bowl and the Meineke.
"We received the one invitation, it was the one we wanted [and] we accepted it immediately," Yow said.
Navy will face Boston College, which at 9-3 was second only to ACC champion Wake Forest in the Atlantic Division standings.
"We've had discussions with other bowls," Yow said. "I don't feel that professionally it's the right thing for me to do, to talk about the substance of those conversations. ... I appreciate their interest in the University of Maryland."
The Boilermakers (8-5, 5-3 Big Ten) rank 10th in the nation and first in the Big Ten in total yards (425.8 per game) and sixth in passing yards (293.7).
"I think it will be a very exciting matchup," Friedgen said. "I know they have an excellent offense, an excellent passing game. I know it will be a real test for our kids, but I think our kids are really excited."
The players will lift and run today, then return to practice tomorrow. Friedgen said he expects everybody but fullback Tim Cesa (concussion) to be ready to play.