A Garden State Bowl contest pitting Maryland against Navy is "a very remote possibilty," the bowl's coordinator, Les Unger, said yesterday.
"Right now, Maryland and Navy are the cofavorites to host the game, but not to face each other. We would have to overcome geographical limitations and those two schools are just too close together."
The Garden State Bowl will be played Sunday, Dec. 14, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. If Maryland or Navy loses Saturday, the other will be invited to host the game. If both win, the decision will be considerably tougher. "We're not rooting for anybody to lose," said Unger, "but we hope it's a clear-cut decision."
Should both lose, Unger said, Rutgers is a third choice to host. He added that the bowl's committee is considering several Midwestern and Southern schools for the visiting team, "but is not looking at any Pacific Coast teams."
Jim Kehoe, Maryland athletic director, said he thought a game between the two locals would be very attractive matchup. But Unger said the contest, to be carried by Mizlou, an independent television network, probably would not be so appealing to non-Eastern viewers.
"We'd be happy to play anybody, anywhere, but I think a lot of people would welcome a Maryland-Navy game," said Kehoe. "With the contest being in New Jersey, both schools would be able to sell a lot of tickets."
While preferring intersectional matchups, the Garden State committee also is concerned about trying to fill the 76,000-seat stadium. "Supporters from both schools could drive up or take the bus from here," Kehoe added. "I've been totally committed to having a Maryland-Navy regular-season game for a long time."
Maryland, which plays Clemson Saturday in Byrd Stadium, appears to have an inside track on a Tangerine Bowl bid to face Florida on Dec. 20 in Orlando, Fla. But Clemson, with the Atlantic Coast Conference's best offense, has played some of its best football against top-20 teams Georgia and North Carolina. Even a loss to the Tigers Saturday might leave the Terps available for the Garden State.
Surprising Navy faces an even bigger problem. The Mids, who played in the Holiday Bowl two years ago, would jump at any postseason bid. But they must first defeat Georgia Tech in Atlanta, where Tech tied then-top-ranked Notre Dame last Saturday.
"I'm sure if the Naval Academy got invited to any bowl, we'd be delighted to meet whatever opposing team is invited," Navy's athletic director, Capt. Bo Coppedge, said yesterday. "But we don't have any idea about any post-season activity now. Right now, all our attentions are directed toward Saturday's game with Georgia Tech.
"We've been in this situation three or four times before, where we only needed one win, over Georgia Tech, to receive a bowl invitation and none of those times did we beat them," he added. Bowl bids will be extended after Saturday's contests.
"Any kind of bowl talk now is premature," Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne said yesterday.
But not too early for Kehoe, who said a bowl appearance is a necessity for financially insecure Maryland. "A . . . bowl game would help us resolve a very major deficit and we are exploring any avenue of approach in that direction," said Kehoe.