Report: Capital One Bowl wanted Northwestern

Josh Walfish, Gameday Editor

Two members of the Capital One Bowl selection committee told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday that their ideal match-up would have been Northwestern and Texas A&M.

According to the sources, the Big Ten and SEC strong-armed the bowl into taking Nebraska and Georgia, the two losers of the conference championship games. Steve Hogan, the executive director of the Capital One Bowl, told the Sentinel that the bowl game has to balance the future relationships with the conference with selecting the best match-up every year.

“Without conference partnerships, you don’t have the inventory to play your game,” Hogan said. “You have to understand that we’ve had a 20-year relationship with the SEC and Big Ten where we’ve had the top (non-BCS) selection from those conferences. That’s an important place to be, and we’d like to continue that relationship.”

Any bowl match-up between the Aggies and Wildcats would be a rematch of last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, which Texas A&M won 33-22. For the Capital One Bowl, the game would have been entertaining because it would pit Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel against one of the most surprising teams in the Big Ten this year. More importantly for the bowl, it would sell a lot of tickets as the Aggies’ first Florida bowl game in more than 50 years and the Cats’ first trip to Orlando since 1997, when NU brought about 21,000 fans to what was then called the Citrus Bowl.

In a Dec. 2 news conference during which NU officially accepted its invitation to the Gator Bowl, athletic director Jim Phillips was asked whether the Big Ten interfered with the bowl-selection process. He said he knew of no such intervention, and NU was excited to go to the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013, in Jacksonville.

“I was not a part of any of that,” Phillips said. “There is no ‘You deserve to be in a certain place.’ It really is a selection, and it comes down to the bowls (to make the decision).”

— Josh Walfish