The only team in town that's going bowling this season will do so across the state on Dec. 20.
As expected after Cincinnati withstood a furious comeback attempt by Connecticut for a 35-27 win Saturday, thus keeping UConn from being bowl eligible, the Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl extended FIU an invitation that the school accepted. The opponent hasn't been determined, although it'll likely be Pitt if it comes from the Big East.
A second consecutive bowl trip, the second in the program's seven Division I seasons, follows the school's first eight-win season and a season in which the Panthers recorded their first win against a school from a conference with an automatic BCS bowl bid.
"These last couple of seasons have been a historic run for us and hte opporutnity to continue to play into December," FIU head coach Mario Cristobal said, "in our home state, in a bowl game of the caliber of the BEef O'Brady's Bowl is an honor and privilege."
Cristobal expressed happiness at being able to go into a recruit's home Saturday night and immediately talk about FIU accepting another bowl bid. He also mentioned how nice a sendoff it would be for the program's seniors, many of whom came to FIU after a 1-11 2007 season.
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said though the invitation came around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, they had been talking with the Beef 'O Brady's Bowl people for two months and said the bowl was always FIU's first choice.
Though the Sun Belt Conference's tie-ins are the New Orleans Bowl and Mobile, Alabama's GoDaddy.com Bowl, it's obvious why FIU would prefer this game over the other two: a three and a half hour drive for most FIU students on holiday break, a game that allows everyone to be home for Christmas and New Year's and an ESPN-connected game getting "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" hype.
Garcia said he expects FIU to sell out its allottment of around 5,000 tickets easily (ticket offices are already open or phone at 305-348-4263) and hopes to take 8,000 to 10,000 fans over for the mid-week game.
The dominoes that had to fall for this to happen began Thursday with West Virginia winning a wild game with South Florida 30-27 on a walk-off field goal. That kept South Florida from being bowl eligible. UConn's lost took it out of contention. That created a hole on both sides, Conference USA and the Big East.
Before Thursday, it was entirely possible FIU could get shut out of the bowls, despite an 8-4 record and win over Big East co-champion Louisville.
"There are so many moving parts," Garcia said. "To say things were changing by the day is an understatement. They were changing by the hour."