Maryland and Virginia bowl hopes were hanging by a slender thread last night, with only North Carolina State's hesitation over accepting a bid to the Garden State Bowl keeping them alive.
The announcement by the Hall of Fame Bowl yesterday afternoon that it will extend a bid to Kentucky Saturday if the Wildcats beat Tennessee, left only the Fiesta Bowl, which is looking for a western team, and the Garden State with open spots.
Late yesterday it was learned that the Garden State had offered North Carolina State (7-4), a bid to play Temple Dec. 15 and was awaiting an answer from the Wolfpack.
The holdup is the fact that State has exams scheduled that week and, although the team has voted to accept the bid, school officials are balking.
Late yesterday, Athletic Director Willis Casey met with school officials to try to resolve the situation while Garden State officials, already rejected by several schools, awaited a decision. He said State's decision will be announced today.
"Anyone who says that State has turned down a bid from us is a liar," Garden State spokesman Les Unger said. "We will either announce a second team within 24 hours or wait until the weekend to choose a second team."
If State does turn down the bid, Maryland and Virginia, both 6-4, could be in the picture. But Garden State officials had indicated last week that they would be more inclined to choose a team from the Midwest if State turned down the bid.
As of late afternoon yesterday, Carl James, Maryland athletic director, said he had not had any contact with officials from the Garden State committee.
The Hall of Fame, after agonizing all weekend, apparently decided to move Kentucky to the top of its list despite a 5-5 record when Wildcat officials told them they would sell 30,000 tickets to the game if invited.
If Kentucky, playing at home, loses to Tennessee on Saturday, Hall of Fame officials will go back to their list, which includes 10 teams from around the country, Maryland, Virginia and Navy being three of them. The list will become relevant only if Kentucky loses. Kentucky has won three straight; Tennessee was routed by Mississippi Saturday.
In another bowl development yesterday, the Southeastern Conference announced that Georgia will not play in the Sugar Bowl if it loses to Georgia Tech Saturday regardless of the outcome of Alabama-Auburn game Dec. 1.
Under the Sugar Bowl's contract with the SEC, Georgia would get the bid if Alabama lost to Auburn since both teams would be 5-1 in conference play and Alabama played in New Orleans last Jan. 1.
But at Georgia's request, the Bulldogs will not go to New Orleans if it loses its final nonconference game of the season Saturday and finishes with an overall mark of 5-6.
In that case the SEC would send Alabama regardless of the outcome of the Auburn game. If Georgia wins and finishes 6-5 it will accept the Sugar Bowl bid if Alabama loses to Auburn.
In a final development yesterday, the Fiesta Bowl, the only other bowl with an open spot, said that if Southern California, Brigham Young or Alabama lose their final game it will invite one of them to the Christmas Day game to play Pittsburgh.
If all three win and go to the Rose, Holiday and Sugar bowls, respectively, the winner of Arizona-Arizona State this Saturday could be invited, officials said.