The San Jose State Spartans (5-7) will face the Georgia State Panthers (6-6) in the AutoNation Cure Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Athletic director Gene Bleymaier announced the bowl invitation on Sunday, at the annual football awards banquet held in the Hayes Mansion in San Jose.
Normally, teams need a 6-6 or better record to be considered for a bowl invitation. However, for 80 bowl spots, only 77 teams met this criteria by the end of Saturday. Thus, teams with 5-7 records and the top three Academic Progress Rate scores became eligible. They were Nebraska (APR 985), Minnesota, and San Jose State (both 975). Missouri, with a 5-7 record and APR of 976, declined to accept any bowl invitation, in order to focus on hiring the successor to retiring head coach Gary Pinkel and preparing for next season.
Head coach Ron Caragher responded to the bowl selection: “The San Jose State University football program is both honored and excited to participate in The AutoNation Cure Bowl game and the festivities surrounding it. Our players look forward to another opportunity to compete together as a team and represent San Jose State University. We are thankful for this tremendous opportunity for our program and look forward to contributing to this bowl's cause -- raise the awareness and help find a cure for breast cancer.”
“It's worth noting that it was the team's academic performance coupled with what they did on the field that made this invitation possible.”
The football program’s APR of 975 is the highest ever in history and ties SJSU with UCLA for the second-highest APR among California FBS programs. The football APR has risen every year since APR records began for the 2005-06 academic year. Prior to then, San Jose State University had a new president in Don Kassing, athletic director in Tom Bowen, and football coach in Dick Tomey. Anticipating upcoming NCAA sanctions due to poor academic performance from student-athletes recruited by previous coach Fitz Hill, they collectively committed to improving the academic performance of student-athletes.
Noel Grigsby, who played at wide receiver for the Spartans from 2010 to 2013, immediately announced a campaign to buy some of the 5,000 tickets allotted to San Jose State. The football team will receive a $1.35 million payout for playing in the Cure Bowl.
At the awards banquet in which Bleymaier announced that the Spartans made the Cure Bowl, senior running back Tyler Ervin earned the Most Valuable Player award. Ervin led the team in rushing yards (1,469), all-purpose yards (2,410), and touchdowns (15) on the season. He rushed for a career-best 300 yards in the win over Fresno State.
This bowl game will be the first-ever meeting between San Jose State and Georgia State, a member of the Sun Belt Conference. While San Jose State football has a near century-long history, Georgia State only began a varsity football program in 2010 and moved from FCS to FBS in 2013. The 6-6 record is Georgia State’s best in three years of FBS competition. Georgia State reached 6-6 after upsetting in-state rival Georgia Southern 34-7.