Minnesota football accepts Sun Bowl bid

Michael Dougherty

Even after the regular season, Purdue quarterback Drew Brees continues to stick it to the University’s football team.
Brees — who is in the running for the Heisman Trophy — and his 19th-ranked Boilermakers (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) leapfrogged the Gophers on Wednesday. Purdue received a bid to the prestigious Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., over the Minnesota team.
Despite having a better record (8-3, 5-3) and a better ranking, the No. 13 Gophers announced Wednesday that they accepted a bid to the Sun Bowl. They will face unranked Oregon (8-3, 6-2 Pac-10) 1:15 p.m. Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.
The Outback Bowl, which generates about $1.9 million for participating schools, generally attracts higher-ranked teams than the Sun Bowl, which generates about $1 million.
The Sun Bowl will be the first bowl game for the Gophers since a 21-14 loss to Tennessee in the 1986 Liberty Bowl. But the joy of ending the 13-year bowl drought was overshadowed by snubs from the Outback and Alamo bowls as well as talk of coach Glen Mason’s possible departure.
Mason met Tuesday with Louisiana State officials in Chicago about the school’s vacant coaching position. But the third-year coach ended speculation about the job Wednesday.
“I have removed myself from any consideration as a candidate for the head coaching position at Louisiana State University,” Mason said in a statement.
He became agitated when reporters continued to ask about his coaching future, saying this day “should be about the players.
“This is a big day for the University of Minnesota players,” he said. “They’ve done what a lot of you guys (the media) said they couldn’t do — they won.”
The Gophers won eight games. Purdue won seven. The Gophers beat Penn State, the No. 2 team in the nation; won three games in a row; and finished 13th in the polls. Penn State lost three in a row for the first time since before World War I.
With Wisconsin heading to the Rose Bowl and Michigan awaiting a probable Bowl Championship Series bid to either the Orange or Fiesta bowl, Citrus Bowl officials selected Michigan State of the remaining Big Ten teams.
That left the Outback Bowl with the next choice, and bowl officials passed up Minnesota and Penn State to pick the Boilermakers.
Derrick Fox, the Alamo Bowl’s executive director, said the attractiveness of a traditional powerhouse like Penn State was the biggest advantage. But he also said the academic-fraud scandal and Mason’s meeting with LSU officials added to arguments against Minnesota.
As Fox’s comments caused Gophers fans to forget the Alamo Bowl, John Folmer, chairman of the Sun Bowl football committee, said El Paso was thrilled to have Minnesota accept its bid.
“We never thought we had a chance at getting 13th-ranked Minnesota, and we didn’t think they’d be on the board at the time of our selection,” Folmer said.
For senior strong safety Tyrone Carter, the Sun Bowl bid elicited mixed emotions. Carter said he didn’t understand how the Gophers were overlooked.
“It just shows anything can happen,” Carter said. “I’m excited about going to a bowl game, but I’m a little upset by their putting us in the Sun Bowl and Purdue in the Outback. But any bowl is good for us and good for the program.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael Dougherty covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]