Tech AD Spin Hard to Believe – From the Bird’s Nest
The announcement came Sunday night and raised eyebrows around the college football world.
Louisiana Tech, the top rated offense in the country and 9-3 on the season, was staying home. No bowl for the Bulldogs.
The Independence Bowl had offered them on Saturday one final time, but Tech opted to hold out for something "better."
Athletics Director Bruce Van de Velde says he thought Tech would get a bid to the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The HOD Bowl is played on New Years' Day, something Van de Velde said was a "natural progression" for the Bulldogs after playing in the Independence Bowl in 2008 and the Poinsettia Bowl last year. The AD made the comment Monday on the "Tim Brando Show."
During that interview, Van de Velde also said the Liberty Bowl was "disingenuous," stating the Memphis bowl assured Tech they were the chosen ones and would get an invite "no matter what." In an open letter to La. Tech fans, Van de Velde said the school entered into a written agreement with the Liberty Bowl saying they would play in the Liberty if no Big 12 team was in the game.
It was that scenario, Van de Velde said, that led him to hedge when the Independence Bowl asked him for an answer on Tech's interest in playing in Shreveport. By then it was known Louisiana-Monroe had been invited.
And, it's been known for quite some time Louisiana Tech doesn't want to play ULM in football. At any time. For any reason. In fact, on his radio program, talk show host Moon Griffon interviewed an Independence Bowl official stating the I-Bowl got an email from Tech saying, although they were interested in the bowl, they were not interested in playing a Sun Belt school.
Van de Velde says Dallas and Memphis were the reasons he refused to commit to the Indy Bowl.
Do you believe him?
While I don't question what Van de Velde thought he had in hand, I firmly believe there was more to it. About three letters more. Specifically, U-L-M.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl was filled by November 24th. Now, there was some talk about trading one of the teams to the Liberty Bowl, but both slots could have been filled contractually if the HOD chose.
The Liberty is more intriguing.
The Memphis-based bowl wound up taking Iowa State of the Big 12 after Northern Illiniois slipped into a BCS bowl. And, despite what Van de Velde might say, there was a huge lobby going on for Arkansas State, as the Sun Belt champion, to play in the Liberty, which would have pitted the SBC champion against the CUSA champion.
And, with Jonesboro, Arkansas just an hour from Memphis, we know they would have sold perhaps 10,000 more tickets to the Liberty than Louisiana Tech would have. And, that is what makes bowls happy. But, having a school from an AQ conference was more appealing in the end.
And, it wasn't very bright to take the Liberty's word that Tech would get invited "no matter what." If that was the case, why wasn't the invitation issued sooner? That reminds me of the football player who says he's committed, but doesn't sign on signing day. The Liberty could have invited Tech at any time. They didn't. And, for Van de Velde to put his eggs in that basket was absolutely ludicrous.
Oh, but golly gee, they promised they'd invite us and then they didn't do it.
Really? That's your explanation?
Here's mine. It's just my opinion, but it's based on a lot of facts from a lot of different sources.
When Tech was nationally ranked, they weren't very responsive to the I-Bowl. Been there. Done that. Bigger fish to fry. Don't need you.
But, when Tech lost to Utah State, that probably changed. With only one guaranteed tie-in because of the exodus of WAC teams, Tech realized they were in the at-large pool and there were no guarantees. So, Tech warmed some to the I-Bowl but still wanted to dictate the terms. And the terms were: No ULM, No Cajuns. No Sun Belt, although one report says Tech modified that stance if Middle Tennessee were available.
The I-Bowl officials, tired of being treated like they weren't good enough for the school in Ruston, decided to invite Louisiana-Monroe.
And then, they gave Tech one more chance to go to Shreveport.
Van de Velde (presumably with the President's and big booster approval) told the bowl they needed more time to make a decision. And put all their eggs in the "we're gonna take you no matter what" even though we're not going to invite you right now because we have to watch some other things that might influence what we do but trust us, we're going to take you bowl.
Written agreement? hey, the Sun Belt had that in 2008. It didn't mean anything.
And, when it was all said and done, what transpired turned out to be something we all already knew.
Give me Liberty or give me egg on my face. Anything but a Sun Belt team as an opponent.
Even if it meant crushing the hopes of 32 seniors. Even if it meant pushing their coach out the door. Even if it meant being criticized nationally.
All of those things would have been better than losing to ULM or the Cajuns .
Because it would have proven the only "separation" is in Tech's mind.