The University of Maryland football team is expected to receive and accept a bid to the Cherry Bowl on Saturday, Athletic Director Dick Dull said last night, adding that the Terrapins could expect to collect a minimum of $1 million for the postseason appearance.
Maryland clinched at least a tie for the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a turbulent 34-31 victory over Clemson Saturday. The Terrapins (7-3, 5-0) can claim their third straight conference title outright by beating or tying Virginia (6-4, 4-2) in the final game of the season Nov. 29.
"It appears that they will invite us next week," Dull said of the Cherry Bowl. "I will accept if they do."
Representatives of the Cherry Bowl, which will be played in the 82,000-seat Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., Dec. 21, have scouted three Maryland games this season and have two more on film. On Friday, Mike Mills, the bowl's director of communications, said the selection committee was "very, very interested" in the Terrapins, who would be making their fourth straight postseason appearance.
The bowl also was considering Georgia, Alabama and Michigan State, among a list of 12 possible teams. One source said Maryland's opponent almost certainly would be Michigan State, which is 6-4 and 3-2 in the Big Ten after a 32-0 victory over Northwestern.
Although the Spartans have a relatively mediocre record for a postseason candidate, they have two things to recommend them. They are a state team, and they have Lorenzo White, the talented sophomore running back who has rushed for 1,685 yards this season. If White gains 207 yards Saturday against Wisconsin, he will tie Georgia's Herschel Walker as the leading sophomore runner in NCAA history.
The Cherry Bowl already has sold 60,000 tickets, which accounts for its guarantee of $1 million to the teams selected. Should the remaining 22,000 seats be sold, the guarantee would be raised to $1.2 million, Dull said. Maryland Coach Bobby Ross was unavailable for comment, but Dull said he had spoken with him and he was "very pleased."
Ross was not pleased earlier in the day after reviewing film of the melee that broke out at the end of Maryland's victory over Clemson. The fight will be reviewed on film today by Atlantic Coast Conference officials, commissioner Bob James said. The incident began as a scuffle on the final play of the game but ended as a brawl that cleared both benches and some of the stands.
"It was nasty," Ross said. "There is no place for that in college football."
The fight began as Maryland was making the final tackle on the kickoff following Dan Plocki's game-winning 20-yard field goal with three seconds left. The Tigers lateraled the ball twice before Terrance Roulhac was driven out of bounds at the Clemson 24 to end the game, when the scuffling broke out. Maryland defensive back Lewis Askew, who helped drive Roulhac out of bounds, wound up on the ground behind the Clemson bench, where he was punched several times by as many as five Tigers, one of whom swung a helmet at his head.
Film showed that Clemson defensive end Eric Dawson, defensive back Kenny Danforth, linebacker Keith Williams and defensive back Norman Haynes punched Askew before Clemson defensive tackle Raymond Chavous, linebacker Terence Mack and an assistant coach helped him out of the melee.
"I don't feel we provoked it," Ross said. "We were making a tackle, and all of a sudden we've got a player behind their bench getting beat on. He could have been seriously injured and he's lucky he had his headgear on.
"There is absolutely no place for that. It was a street mugging."
Ross raced across the field to try to get his players out of the fight, and several Terrapins said afterward that they thought Ross had been swung at by Clemson's Michael Dean Perry, younger brother of former Tiger William (The Refrigerator) Perry. Ross, however, said that no one had swung at him.
"I didn't feel that happened," he said. "I was in the melee trying to break it up. My only thought was to get our players off the field."
James said that he had not seen the game on television or any film of the incident but added that the ACC supervisor of officials, Bradley Faircloth, had been present and would file a report on the fight. Whether the conference will consider penalizing Clemson, and what penalties it could hand out, will be determined after film is reviewed.
Dull downplayed the incident. "I look at it as being over," he said. "We won't follow it up. We've been great rivals and great friends. Regretfully, it was a high-pressure game. I don't think it serves anybody by getting in a dialogue about it. It was just an emotional game."
Bowl bids officially cannot be issued until Saturday at 6 p.m. But the jockeying for teams and bowls has begun in earnest, and some of the scenarios are complex, particularly for the major games on New Year's Day. Top-ranked Penn State, which defeated Notre Dame, 36-6, held a team meeting with Coach Joe Paterno last night to discuss its bowl situation and announced it would accept an Orange Bowl bid if offered.
The Orange Bowl could be the deciding game for the national championship, if No. 2 Nebraska clinches the Big Eight title and the Orange berth with a victory over Oklahoma, and Penn State (10-0) beats Pittsburgh this weekend.
One ACC team with a winning record that seems unlikely to go to a bowl is Virginia. The Cavaliers assured themselves of a winning season with their 24-22 victory over North Carolina, but they have been inconsistent all year and no bowl scouts were at Scott Stadium.
"I'd say its an outside shot," Virginia Coach George Welsh said.
The Cavaliers' victory was a near thing in light of Welsh's decision to suspend quarterback Don Majkowski Friday for violating a team rule, which other players said resulted from his being spotted drinking a beer Thursday night. Welsh said he did not yet consider the quarterback his starter for Maryland.
"We'll meet again early this week," he said.