The University of Virginia, passed over by three bowl games for teams it either defeated or finished ahead of in the ACC, will ask the conference to examine the way it matches its football teams with bowls.
"I think for sure [the policy] needs to be reviewed," said U-Va. Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, who will bring the issue up at the ACC's winter meetings in February. "When the conference's second-place team is passed over multiple times, it's an example of some of the flaws in the system."
That system allowed the Gator, Tangerine and Peach bowls to choose North Carolina State, Clemson and Maryland, respectively, over the Cavaliers, who finished second in the ACC (tied with Maryland). The Cavaliers beat all three teams.
While Maryland tied Virginia for second by compiling a 6-2 conference record, N.C. State and Clemson finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
But a team's record is only part of how bowl executives choose football teams. To allow organizers the "flexibility" to create matchups that generate the largest fan interest, the ACC and several other conferences give bowl executives some room to mix and match teams, said ACC assistant commissioner Mike Finn.
Other factors considered are national rankings, geographic proximity to bowl sites and avoiding recent rematches.
"At the end of the day Maryland was ranked, and Virginia wasn't," Peach Bowl President Gary Stokan said.
Too often a bowl bid is determined by politics and the issue should be decided on the playing field, growled Virginia Coach Al Groh after watching Clemson and Maryland receive more prestigious bowl bids.
But Virginia was snubbed because of the widely held belief among bowl organizers that too few of Virginia's fans attend the school's postseason games, according to numerous bowl-game sources.
Virginia had a reputation among bowl executives for not "traveling well" and schools that don't travel well are often shunned.
As if to show the naysayers -- and the three bowls that overlooked them -- fans snapped up the 12,500 tickets the school was allotted after being invited to play West Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 28. The demand prompted the school to request 7,000 more tickets, which it sold.
The Continental Tire Bowl announced yesterday that it sold all of the 73,258 available tickets.
"Virginia has laid to rest that non-traveling reputation with their purchase of this game," said Ken Haines, president of Raycom Sports, which operates the Continental Tire Bowl. "We could have sold 10,000 more seats."
Meantime, sales have been sluggish on the ticket allotments for Maryland and Clemson.
As of yesterday, the Terrapins had sold 12,000 of the 20,000 tickets it committed to selling for the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta, according to Stokan. The Terps will play Tennessee.
Clemson, which traditionally descends upon a bowl site with legions of fans, has sold less than 10,000 tickets to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, according to published reports, where the Tigers face Texas Tech on Monday.
Both teams won the bowl bids partly on the strength of their history at attracting big crowds. Last year, 22,000 fans showed up in Miami on Jan. 2 to watch Maryland play in the Orange Bowl, its first bowl appearance in 12 years.
Stokan dismissed any suggestion that Maryland had not lived up to its billing.
"They were at 7,000 [sold] last Wednesday and in five days they [had moved a total of] 12,000 plus tickets," Stokan said. "That's a nice trend. There is no race to sell tickets in one day. [Maryland] told us that their fans buy late."
Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen urged boosters to buy tickets in an e-mail last week.
Maryland said that its too soon to predict how many tickets it would sell, but administrators cited several factors that could affect sales.
"Our fans have been widely supportive of Maryland athletics over the last 20 months," said Dave Haglund, an associate athletic director at Maryland.
"They followed us to the Orange Bowl, the Kickoff Classic, and back-to-back Final Four appearances in basketball."