COLUMBIA — The Cotton Bowl’s sincere interest in South Carolina is a mutual feeling, coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday.
The Gamecocks will fall short of making their first BCS bowl bid, despite a 10-2 record and No. 8 ranking in the BCS standings. However, a third straight 10-win season has them in line for one of the SEC’s premier January bowl games.
South Carolina will travel to an attractive location over the holidays. Spurrier told The Post and Courier his preference is the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
“That would be a trip that would probably be at the top of our list, if we had a choice,” Spurrier said. “The Capital One Bowl is an excellent bowl, there’s no question about that. If they send us there, that would be fine also. But, because I’ve never coached it — and I’ve coached about all the rest of them — certainly if I had my choice that would be where I think our team would like to go. And I think most of our fans would like to go to the Cotton Bowl. So we’ll see where it plays out, I guess.”
South Carolina will either play in the Capital One Bowl, located in Orlando, or the Cotton Bowl Classic, The Post and Courier has learned. The Gamecocks are unlikely to be invited by the Outback Bowl, where they’ve played four times since 2001.
The Capital One Bowl gets first pick of SEC teams after the BCS process is complete. The Outback Bowl, located in Tampa, then gets first pick among SEC East teams, while the Cotton Bowl gets first pick among SEC West teams.
One potential scenario is a trade, sending an SEC West team to the Outback and an SEC East team to the Cotton.
South Carolina is among four realistic possibilities for the Cotton Bowl, CEO Rick Baker told The Post and Courier on Tuesday. Baker said there is also interest in the SEC Championship Game loser — Auburn and Missouri play Saturday in Atlanta — as well as LSU.
Baker has long wanted to invite South Carolina to the Cotton Bowl, but by the time the Cotton could choose an SEC East team the Gamecocks were no longer available. Baker said he believes there could be a “legitimate opportunity” this year.
The Cotton Bowl had its first team selection meeting Tuesday, and South Carolina was discussed. However, Baker said he’s unsure if South Carolina will be available.
“We try not to get emotionally invested in any particular team or matchup or scenario because we know it’s probably going to change after this weekend,” Baker said. “Our position has always been, and certainly was proven today, that we were really just looking at what options we might have and what we might do if certain things happen. We’re very much aware that a lot of what we do is dependent on a stream of what others may or may not do or whatever teams may or may not be picked ahead of us. We’re pretty much just in a wait mode.”
Baker said he expects the SEC bowl picture to starting clearing up Saturday night, following the conclusion of the SEC Championship Game.
Once the Gamecocks knew they would not play this week in the SEC Championship Game, focus immediately shifted to the team’s bowl situation. South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said bowl discussions started Sunday.
Like Spurrier, Tanner is also interested in the Cotton Bowl.
“I think that if you pay attention to social media and all that, it’s been very intriguing for our fans because we’ve never been to the Cotton Bowl,” Tanner said. “Most years you’re not in position to get into consideration. This is a different year as far as that’s concerned. So I think it’s exciting to our fans to be in that mix.
“Also, we’ve had some great experiences in the state of Florida, and there are some great opportunities there as well. We think we’re in a very good position right now with a 10-2 team. It’s going to be an outstanding bowl, and it’s a win-win for us.”
Baker said he’d be “very proud” to host Spurrier and his team for the first time. He’s also impressed with the interest South Carolina fans have shown in the Cotton Bowl.
Spurrier mentioned the newness of the Cotton Bowl as a reason he’d like his team to make the holiday trip to Dallas. He believes the Cotton Bowl would be a good experience for players, most of whom have never played a game in Dallas.
“It’s just something different,” Spurrier said. “... Just because I’ve never been there. If I could win that, that would be neat to say you won the Cotton Bowl.”