UConn Goes Bowling in Charlotte

The University of Connecticut is heading to NASCAR country. With the entire football team looking present on Tuesday, UConn football coach Randy Edsall and athletic director Jeff Hathaway accepted an invitation to a chorus of cheers to play an ACC team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. on Dec. 29.

The Huskies (9-3 5-2 Big East) had to sweat out the decision by the Car Care Bowl after the Sun Bowl, No. 2 in the Big East pecking order, passed on second place UConn to take South Florida last night. Charlotte took the Huskies over Cincinnati (9-3, 4-3) despite UConn losing 66-21 in its season finale at No. 2 West Virginia Saturday.

"A bowl is a reward for the student athletes and the time and effort they have put in since January should be rewarded," Edsall said. "Today it was rewarded. (Jeff Hathaway) and I sat down and talked, and if we couldn't get to the BCS game, the Meineke Bowl in Charlotte would have been the best opportunity to involve not only the players and parents, but the fans."

Still, with its loss to the Mountaineers and a blowout loss two weeks prior to that at Cincinnati, it looked as though UConn's bowl hopes were slipping away.

"Just judge the season and not that last half game of the year," Edsall said. "We finished second and that has to mean something. Why else would you play the regular season if your standing doesn't mean something? We are a 9-3 team, just like Cincinnati. Then you get into the political part of polls. If we had the loss in the middle of the season and finished 9-3, we would probably be in the Top 25. You can't penalize a team for losing late, especially when you finish second in the standings in a tough league."

The Huskies overall record and conference standing had a lot of weight with the committee according to Meineke Bowl Car Care Bowl executive director Will Webb said.

"UConn had a really good season and a hiccup at the end of the season, but not many NFL teams could have beat West Virginia that night," Webb said. "We tried to look at the season as a whole. UConn had sole possession of second place in the conference and that had a lot of weight."

Webb also isn't concerned with the rankings. The Huskies were raked for much of the second half of the season in the BCS and the AP Poll, only to fall just out of it with the West Virginia loss.

"Yes, Cincinnati is higher in the BCS, but LSU spanked Virginia Tech but Virginia Tech is ranked higher. USF beat West Virginia, but West Virginia is playing for the national championship," Webb said. "The rankings are one measure, not the end all."

The Huskies are also thought of as an excellent draw. The Huskies are committed to buying 12,500 and Hathaway said the game is attractive from an UConn standpoint because of the accessibility of Charlotte and it's location on the East Coast. The Sun Bowl is in El Paso, Texas.

Fans wishing to purchase tickets and attend the game, or even purchase tickets to donate locally, are asked to do so at UConnbowl.com. There will also be travel packages in the future.

The Huskies' bid to the Care Care Bowl averted an embarrassing fall for the second place team in the Big East. The Huskies would have been ticketed likely to obscure bowls such as the International Bowl in Toronto against a MAC team or the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. Against CUSA member Southern Miss. The Huskies staying in an attractive bowl like Charlotte helps with recruiting.

"The way recruiting is and how cutthroat it can be, it helps that we are going to be the third selection of the bowls and not the fourth or the fifth," Edsall said. "I know some of our competitors out there would use that against us for sure. It is very meaningful."

The Huskies opponent is unknown with Wake Forest a strong candidate followed by Florida State, Maryland and even Georgia Tech.

The game takes place at the Carolina Panthers' NFL stadium which seats over 70,000 and has been sold out twice in five years.

UCONN Playbook Top Stories