Tressel Campaigned For Buckeyes

This January, Ohio State will play in its sixth consecutive BCS game when it faces Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. The team's postseason destination was uncertain until the end, however, as Michigan State touted itself as a team capable of replacing the Buckeyes in New Orleans. That had OSU head coach Jim Tressel making an extra phone call or two last week.

Jim Tressel is used to wearing his customary sweater vest during football season, but this past week saw him donning a different set of apparel. With Ohio State aiming to secure a fifth consecutive berth in a BCS game, the team's head coach spent some time serving as a pitchman for his program.

The wizard's hat and snake oil proved not to be necessary, however, as the Buckeyes were awarded a berth in the Sugar Bowl with a Jan. 4 contest against Arkansas. Speaking with reporters inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as the bowl pairings were announced Dec. 5, Tressel confirmed that he had done some lobbying on behalf of his 2010 co-Big Ten champions who finished the season 11-1.

"I think it was important that they knew that we were fired up about the thought of playing in the Sugar Bowl (and) spending a week in New Orleans," Tressel said. "I know our kids were."

The maneuvering was made necessary by the fact that OSU was one of three Big Ten teams to finish the season tied atop the league standings. Wisconsin was awarded the conference's automatic bid to the Rose Bowl by virtue of holding the highest BCS rating among Big Ten schools, leaving the Buckeyes and Michigan State to duke it out for the conference's other potential BCS bid.

"The entire Michigan State operation basically put together a marketing plan and a sales pitch that was really nothing short of outstanding," said Paul Hoolahan, executive director of the Sugar Bowl. "My hat's off to them. They really made a very convincing appeal."

Hoolahan said the most impressive part of MSU's presentation was a video the university put together highlighting its cause.

"It stood on its own merit and it said: These are the things that Michigan State has accomplished. These are the people that we've been able to accomplish it with; and, consequently, we think that we certainly deserve an opportunity to be considered in a BCS Bowl, and we would like to come to New Orleans and participate in the Sugar Bowl," Hoolahan said.

It was not convincing enough, in the end, to earn the Spartans the chance to be selected to the bowl ahead of the Buckeyes. In the final BCS standings, Wisconsin came in at No. 5 with OSU one spot behind and MSU at No. 9.

OSU's lone loss was a 13-point defeat suffered at the hands of the Badgers. The Spartans suffered a 37-6 loss to Iowa but also handed Wisconsin its lone loss, a 34-24 decision. The Buckeyes and Spartans did not face each other.

The Badgers earned a contest against unbeaten TCU, while the Spartans will face Alabama on New Year's Day as part of the Capital One Bowl.

Tressel said the Buckeyes are an attractive candidate for any bowl thanks to two key reasons.

"No. 1, you can't get into the discussion without the won-loss record," he said. "No. 2, every bowl looks at what type of television audience could this attract, what type of fans, what's your history of bowl attendance and those kinds of things. The thing I think every bowl knows about Ohio State is that our folks, they could go to 50 bowls in a row and they'd still be excited about going to a bowl game. Whether it was BCS games or non BCS games, since I've been here we've had a tremendous following."

Hoolahan added that the Sugar Bowl already had a familiarity level with the Buckeyes that it did not have with the Spartans owing to the fact that OSU was in New Orleans three seasons ago for the BCS national championship game and will be playing in its eighth BCS game.

The Spartans, meanwhile, have never played in a BCS game. Once Wisconsin and OSU were awarded BCS games, the door was closed on MSU because rules prohibit more than two teams from one conference being named to BCS games in the same year.

"It was a difficult decision, needless to say, because they did offer a very attractive alternative," Hoolahan said, "but in the final analysis, when we looked at the higher-ranked Ohio State, we did have some background and experience. There was a little more familiarity and that made the decision a little bit easier, but it was not definitely one that we in any way, shape or form overlooked a very attractive option in Michigan State."

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