In the end, all the advocacy, the politicking and the selling of the program was for naught. Despite a banner 8-4 season that featured a breakout quarterback and the ACC Coach of the Year, the Maryland Terrapins will be forced to stay home and play in the Military Bowl against East Carolina. According to Eric Prisbell of the Washington Post, the matchup is now official.
The game will take place on December 29 at RFK Stadium at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN. Having a local team is a huge boon to Military Bowl officials, but it's a huge disappointment for Maryland, who was hoping for something more after finishing in a tie for third in the ACC. However, due to poor attendance figures at home games, the Terps slipped to eighth in the bowl picture because of concerns that the fans wouldn't travel with. Bowls are able to do this as long as teams are within one win of each other in conference play, and six ACC teams finished either 5-3 or 4-4.
According to Prisbell, any hope of Maryland playing in the Champs Sports Bowl evaporated last night.
Maryland's long-shot hopes of playing in an upper-tier bowl, as Coach Ralph Friedgen felt his team deserved, dissolved late Saturday night in - of all places - Tampa, Fla., where Connecticut earned the Big East title with a last-minute victory over South Florida. That cleared the way for the Champs Sports Bowl to select West Virginia (9-3), thus blocking Maryland's slim chances of landing there because officials try, at all costs, to avoid regular season rematches. The Sun Bowl, which had the next selection, was delighted to match two of the nation's most recognizable football programs, Notre Dame and Miami, in what promises to be an attendance and television ratings bonanza.
Going to the Military Bowl is good for Maryland's bottom line, as they save on travel costs, but it's not what they would have wanted, and it will be difficult to get fans excited about a weekday afternoon start in frigid temperatures.
East Carolina is 6-6 this season, including a 5-3 record in Conference USA. The Pirates' best win, ironically, is against North Carolina State, who jumped Maryland to go to the Champs Sports Bowl. However, they also were responsible for one of the most lopsided college football games this season, a 76-35 loss to Navy on November 6. The Panthers have lost four of their last five games and are among the worst defensive teams in college football.