WVU - FSU a match in the Gator

West Virginia fans have known for several days that their football team would be playing in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2010. Sunday evening Mountaineer Nation learned its opponent.

West Virginia received its official Gator Bowl bid on Saturday afternoon after defeating Rutgers 24-21. On Sunday, WVU learned that Florida State will be its foe in Jacksonville.

Daniel Murphy, Chairman of the Gator Bowl, made the announcement Sunday evening.

For the 65th annual Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, Murphy noted that it would be a tremendous matchup on several different levels.

"The staff, teams and fans of West Virginia have been a tremendous partner for us. A lot of you have figured out that this is Bobby Bowden's last game with Florida State, so we are very excited about that.

"It is early, but so far with people guessing about the possibility, I think the response has been tremendous," Murphy said of initial reactions to the game. "I think the ticket sales will go through the roof. Whether you are an FSU fan or not, you have to respect what Coach Bowden has done. This will be a celebration of a great coach and a college icon."

It's clear from the outset that the focus of this game will be on Bowden and his retirement. Murphy confirmed that the bowl will plan events to celebrate the long-time coach's career, and was confident that West Virginia "would be excited to be a part of it too."

Murphy noted that the ACC "fully supports" the Gator Bowl in its decision to invite Florida State, although there were certainly some stumbling blocks outlined earlier in the week.

"To be honest, there weren't many disucssions with the ACC," Murphy said. "We simply followed what the contract allows. There wasn't a lot of intrigue or discussion. We made a decision and the ACC obviously fully supports that decision."

Murphy also outlined the process that led to the selection of each team.

"It started in the last week when Coach Bowden announced he would retire. With how the teams were stacked in the ACC it became a possibility that we could select Florida State. We got excited when we knew we could pick FSU against West Virginia. With this being Coach Bowden's last game and his history with West Virginia, we thought it would be a home run on a number of levels.

"I would look at this as a culmination of the partnership we have had with the ACC We have a team and a monumental event, and we felt fortunate to be the bowl to host Coach Bowden in the state of Florida, and in his coming full circle from West Virginia to Florida State. This is about ending a partnership. We couldn't have scripted it any better."

On the match-up, Murphy cited West Virginia's season-ending play, its win over Pitt, and the chance to have an exciting game as on-field reasons for selecting the two squads, and tired to downplay any criticism for picking a 6-6 Seminole squad over several other ACC teams with better resumes.

"I'm not sure what we would apologize for," he said. "We are putting together two great teams that had great seasons, and one Hall of Fame coach. "

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