Orange Bowl keeping options open as Championship Saturday approaches
CLEMSON - All indications from the outside are Clemson seems destined for its second Orange Bowl in three years, provided Florida State makes the national championship game and opens up a spot for its ACC foe.
Internally, Orange Bowl organizers are content to wait and see.
"We don't have any board until Sunday," Orange Bowl vice president for communications Larry Wahl said Friday, the day before Conference Championship Saturday.
Wahl and two other bowl organizers have acknowledged their longstanding partnership with the ACC, which is why there's only been one time in the 14-year BCS era the Orange Bowl didn't include an ACC squad (excluding years the Orange was serving as the national title matchup, or the only eligible ACC team was elsewhere in a national title game.)
Wahl and his team also are students of history, and they recognize this year makes logical sense to give Clemson another chance in its game after a 70-33 loss to West Virginia two years ago.
In 14 years, only one time has one of the four BCS bowls (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, Rose) had at least one at-large or replacement selection, with the option of choosing a team from its partnered conference, and voluntarily gone a different direction.
That was after the 2000 season, when the Fiesta Bowl went with No. 11 Notre Dame to replace No. 1 Oklahoma (bound for the championship game in Miami). As the final at-large selection, the Fiesta Bowl chose No. 6 Oregon State over No. 8 Nebraska, thus shunning the Big XII partnership.
Other than that, should Clemson end up in the top 14 of the final BCS Standings Sunday, it would be an unprecedented move for the Orange Bowl to not just once, but twice, pass over the Tigers (provided FSU beats Duke to punch its ticket for Pasadena as the top-ranked team in the BCS National Championship.)
Most bowl projections have Clemson facing Alabama in the Orange Bowl, which would pit two programs with historical success against one another. There also could be easy storylines there; Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney played and coached at Alabama, while multiple Crimson Tide assistants used to serve on Clemson's staff.
However, Wahl doesn't pay much attention to projections or estimations.
"There's no locks at this point. We're a pretty deliberate group," Wahl said. "We have a leadership group that wants to weigh every possibility, including what ticket sales will be, what our stakeholders want, what's appealing to our local fan base for renewals, what's the travel distance, there's some compelling storylines, what are the rankings, the opponent . all those things will weigh in on it. Everybody at this point is under consideration."
Whoever gets announced Sunday night on ESPN's selection show as the pair of Orange Bowl participants will soon have representatives from the committee on campus to work with the alumni association and athletic department.
"Every year, we send a team of people, usually our marketing folks and parternship folks and a member, to go to the particular schools and do a little marketing on behalf of the school, so help the school drive tickets," Wahl said. "We'll work in conjunction with the schools and say, get us as many local radio spots as you can, put us as your press conference, let us talk to people and tell them what there is to do in south Florida, what events there are."
Each school participating in a BCS bowl is allotted 17,500 tickets. Clemson season-ticket holders and IPTAY boosters are able to place orders ahead of time.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich wrote an open letter to fans Monday asking for support via e-mails and social media, which the Orange Bowl has acknowledged great response this week.
"What it does is raise awareness," Radakovich told The Post and Courier on Friday. "At the end of the day, there are other factors that are a part of their decision-making process, but certainly the enthusiasm our fans have exhibited is positive."
Clemson is tinkering with special packages or plans to entice fans to make that second trip to the Orange Bowl in 24 months.
"We're looking at a number of different options to make sure we have a great representative group of Clemson fans there," Radakovich said. "We don't know if we're going to make it to the Orange Bowl, but once the bowl announcement is made, we'll make sure the Clemson fans can mobilize and make their plans accordingly for our postseason."