Sun Bowl snub would mean ‘U’ comes up $520,000 short

by Brian Hall

On Sept. 25, Minnesota’s football team traveled to West Lafayette, Ind., and lost to Purdue. The defeat meant the Gophers would open the Big Ten season with a loss.

Two months later, it appears the loss might have cost Minnesota $520,000.

Even though the games are over, the Gophers and Boilermakers are in a battle for a bigger bowl payout – and Purdue might have pulled ahead.

The postseason opportunities for the two teams basically boil down to two bowls: the Sun Bowl and the Music City Bowl.

The Sun Bowl committee has the first choice between Minnesota (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) and the Boilermakers (6-6, 4-4), with the other team heading to Nashville, Tenn., for the Music City Bowl.

The team payout for the Sun Bowl is a minimum of $1.3 million per team while the Music City Bowl offers a minimum of $780,000 per team. While Minnesota seemed to be a near lock for a Sun Bowl berth, the decision has become cluttered.

“At one point I thought we would just take the loser of the (Minnesota-Wisconsin) game,” said John Folmer, the football chairman for the Sun Bowl. “But we have a committee of 12 guys and when they started talking about it, there was some feeling that Purdue finished stronger and that would have some appeal.”

The Boilermakers went to the Sun Bowl last season and bowl committees normally do not invite the same team two years in a row. But Minnesota’s four-game losing streak has some Sun Bowl committee members worried.

“The major considerations would be how they finished in the league, how they did head-to-head and how they finished the season,” Folmer said.

Purdue posted a better conference mark, won the head-to-head battle and finished stronger than the Gophers.

The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31 will pit a Big Ten team against the third place Pac-10 team, possibly Arizona State or UCLA. If the Boilermakers are chosen, it will cost Minnesota $520,000.

“I truly believe that our student-athletes, band and our fans will have as good a time in Nashville as in El Paso,” Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi said. “The challenge for me as an athletics director is the financial component. Are we going to be able to do everything we want to do for $750,000 as opposed to $1.3 million?”

The Music City Bowl will take the last Big Ten squad and that team will face off with a South Eastern Conference team, most likely Arkansas or Auburn.

After beating the Gophers last Saturday, Wisconsin seems destined for a trip to San Antonio, Texas, and the Alamo Bowl. Alamo representatives are on hold, waiting for the BCS to determine which team it will choose.

With a win against Wisconsin, the Gophers would most likely have headed to San Antonio. Because of the loss, Minnesota will miss out on the minimum $1.35 million payout.

Awards handed out

the Gophers held their annual postseason banquet on Monday and announced the 2002 award recipients.

Senior Jermaine Mays was named the Bronko Nagurski Award winner as the team’s most valuable player. Mays also shared the outstanding special team’s player honor with kicker Dan Nystrom.

Running back Terry Jackson II was named the team’s outstanding offensive player while safety Eli Ward took home defensive honors.

Brian Hall covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]