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U-Va. Clouds Bowl Picture for ACC

Decision to Not Play During Finals Affects More Than Just Cavaliers

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2004; Page D09

The University of Virginia's decision to decline invitations to any postseason bowl games that conflict with the school's fall-semester final exams has caused quite a headache for the ACC. Conference officials spent much of yesterday trying to appease Champs Sports Bowl officials, who thought they were getting the Cavaliers, while still trying to work out a deal that could send Virginia to the more prestigious Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

Virginia, which lost to Virginia Tech, 24-10, in its regular season finale, probably won't know its postseason destination until after the No. 10 Hokies play at No. 9 Miami on Saturday. If the Hokies (9-2, 6-1) win their eighth consecutive game, they'll win the ACC and the automatic Bowl Championship Series berth that comes with it. If they lose to the Hurricanes, the Hokies could fall all the way to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando if the Peach Bowl shakes up the ACC's bowl pecking order and takes the Cavs instead.

Virginia has played in the Peach Bowl three times, most recently in 1998. The Peach Bowl was the first bowl game to invite the Cavaliers -- they beat Purdue, 27-24, after the 1984 season.

"Virginia has been an excellent team for us," Peach Bowl President Gary Stokan said yesterday. "They travel to our bowls very, very well. They feel there's a special relationship with the bowl."

But Stokan would have a hard time passing up either Virginia Tech or Miami, which both beat Virginia and would be a more attractive matchup against an SEC team, probably Florida. The Gators will be playing their final game under Coach Ron Zook.

After the Cavaliers (8-3, 5-3) passed on the Dec. 21 Champs Sports (formerly Tangerine) Bowl, it was widely assumed they would play in the Dec. 27 MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho, and that Georgia Tech would take Virginia's spot in Orlando. But Champs Sports Bowl officials aren't excited about taking the Yellow Jackets, the ACC's sixth-place team with a 6-5 record and a two-game losing streak.

By taking the Cavaliers, the Peach Bowl would leave Florida State for the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Miami-Virginia Tech loser in the Champs Sports Bowl. Georgia Tech would then play in Boise.

"We're kind of in a little bit of a holding pattern right now," MPC Computers Bowl Executive Director Gary Beck said. "There's a lot of horse trading going on."

Virginia Coach Al Groh yesterday defended the school's decision to bypass any games that conflict with final exams, which are scheduled from Dec. 13 to 21.

"This was an easy one," Groh said. "A university's fundamental issue is to educate, and the University of Virginia has certainly proven that it knows very well how to educate at the highest levels. I fully support and agree with that mission, and we want to play whatever role we can in being a part of that."

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