"There were a number of really good football teams with 7-5 records,"?he says. "We kept watching Auburn all year. We had selection committee members at the games, beating Tennessee and then beating Ole Miss, and the report back from the Auburn-Alabama game.
"We were trying to analyze what inventory is available," McVay points out. "What are the really good football teams? Are there marquee players available? We talked about the running back (Ben Tate) at Auburn. A lot of really, really good things kept coming up about Auburn. That just put Auburn very high on our list.
"We typically take teams from the (SEC) East, but that is something we have even talked about trying to find a way to better circulate that inventory," McVay adds.
"We have had a lot of the Eastern Division teams, the Cotton Bowl has had a lot of Western Division teams. I think there is probably a desire to somehow mix that up a little bit so this was the perfect opportunity with the perfect team for us to bring Auburn back. Our people over the last couple of years would ask, ‘What about bringing in some of the Western Division teams here?' It kind of worked out this year."
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs notes he is glad that McVay and his committee liked what they saw when checking out Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers.
Jacobs says that beginning the day after Auburn's regular season finale vs. Alabama, he and other Auburn officials got in touch with bowl officials to make sure they would keep the Tigers in mind when selecting their teams. "We began to contact bowls to find out what they needed from us to help them make a good business decision so we were very proactive on what we did all day Sunday and all day on Monday just letting people know," Jacobs says.
The athletic director notes that the bowls that had scouted the Tigers were already seriously considering the Tigers and McVay agrees that was the case with the Outback Bowl.
"Just a lot of things about Auburn stood out," McVay says. "Number one, it is a really, really good football team that is exceptionally well coached. That is what is being rewarded here. These players and coaches earned their way onto New Year's Day to play Northwestern in our game.
"When you look at the surrounding package, with that university, with Jay Jacobs and the fans, just everything about Auburn says big-time, tradition-rich and success," says McVay, who also serves as the bowl's chief executive officer. "That is what we feel we and so we just really felt good about the Auburn Tigers this year."
Auburn senior defensive end Antonio Coleman will wrap up his collegiate career in a bowl game, one of his preseason goals.
The Tigers are 1-1 in previous bowl games in Tampa. Following the 1989 season the Tigers defeated Ohio State in the Hall of Fame Bowl, which was later renamed. Following the 1996 season Penn State defeated Auburn in the Outback Bowl. Auburn's opponent on New Year's Day this season will be the Northwestern Wildcats of the Big 10, a team that has not played in the Outback Bowl. Northwestern is also a team that has never played the Tigers in football.
McVay says the bowl decided to pick the Wildcats over Wisconsin for several reasons, including the fact that the Wildcats had not been to Tampa. However, there was one overriding reason. "What it came down to is that Wisconsin and Northwestern played a couple of weeks ago and Northwestern beat them," the Outback Bowl president says. "I believe they both had the same conference record. We haven't had them in our game, but the head to head was really the final decision. That is what encouraged our board members and our selection committee since they are comparable teams with comparable records."
Commenting on Auburn, McVay says, "I think Auburn can play with anybody in the country. They are a very, very good football team and they are well coached. This is a deserving team. There is no question about it."
Jacobs says he expects a good turnout of Auburn fans in Tampa. The Tigers began taking orders for bowl tickets last Wednesday. "Based on the chatter, the emails and everything going on in the last week, we are going to do very, very well in selling tickets."
Jacobs adds, "We have a great marketing plan in place. Already our phones are lighting up about ticket sales. We think it is going to be great."
Jacobs points out that there are a lot of Auburn fans a short drive from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa who he expects to be at the game. "My parents are still down there and I talked to them just a little while ago," the athletic director says. "Their email is blowing up as well from Auburn people down there. It is great. There are so many Auburn people in that area. It is close enough that they get a chance to come up here to some games, but to have us down there they are really, really excited.
"Gene and I actually had a chance to go down back in April and speak to the Tampa Bay Auburn Club there in Tampa," Jacobs says. "It is a great group of people so it is real exciting. It is exciting for the players from Florida as well to get a chance to go back to their home state and play."
The Auburn athletic director adds, "We are going to try to paint Raymond James (Stadium) orange before the game and try to have the world's longest Tiger Walk prior to that game if that is possible."
Chizik says the Tigers' main objective on their trip to Tampa will be to win their eighth game of the season, but says the bowl trip provides an opportunity to get a head start on 2010 season for redshirts and other players as well as rewarding the players for hard work in a transition year for the football team.
The head coach says he isn't certain when the Tigers will return to practice field as the team prepares for fall semester final exams. "We are still working through the red tape of everything," Chizik says. "We are still getting a bowl schedule down. We will have everything narrowed down by early this week. More than likely we will start this weekend at some point."