A long day followed a long season for Clemson's football team.
The Tigers began Sunday hoping to receive word of a bid from the Tangerine Bowl. They ended it praying for an invitation from any bowl at all.
After spending the afternoon and early evening learning it had been squeezed out of the Tangerine and Silicon Valley bowls, Clemson went late into the night without word that its season will continue.
Officials at the Humanitarian Bowl began a meeting at 9 p.m. EST Sunday to decide whether Clemson, Mississippi or UCLA will face a team from the Western Athletic Conference in the Dec. 31 game.
The bowl had yet to release a decision late Sunday night, and indications were that it wouldn't name a team until today. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said through a school spokesman that he wouldn't comment "until we know we're going to a bowl game or that the season is over."
On Saturday, minutes after they became eligible for the postseason in a 59-31 win over Duke, the Tigers (6-5) appeared supremely confident that their season would end in a bowl - preferably the Orlando-based Tangerine, which was also considering North Carolina State as its Atlantic Coast Conference representative.
Clemson waged an intense lobbying campaign to pitch the Tigers, star quarterback Woody Dantzler and the program's ability to take plenty of fans to Florida.
But after a two-hour meeting that featured spirited debate and a vote from 100 members of the selection committee, the Tangerine chose N.C. State (7-4) to play Pittsburgh in its Dec. 20 game.
Tom Mickle, incoming executive director for the Tangerine Bowl, said Sunday that the Wolfpack's late-season success was a significant factor. N.C. State won four of its last five games - including a 34-28 triumph at Florida State. Clemson had lost three in a row and four out of five before Saturday's victory over the winless Blue Devils.
Clemson was spurned despite a 45-37 win at N.C. State on Oct. 13.
"The group felt that N.C. State, toward the end of the season, the last five games or so, was playing very well," Mickle said. "That influenced the decision more than anything else."
N.C. State orchestrated what Mickle called a "creative twist" last Friday when head coach Chuck Amato and athletic director Lee Fowler traveled to Orlando and made a plea for the Wolfpack.
"You want to do everything you feel like you can do," Fowler said.
After their bid for the Tangerine proved fruitless, the Tigers scrambled for an at-large spot in the Silicon Valley Football Classic. But the bowl in San Jose, Calif., chose Michigan State (6-5) to play the WAC's Fresno State in its Dec. 31 game, and the fifth-annual Humanitarian Bowl appeared to be Clemson's last option.
The WAC's representative in the game will be either Louisiana Tech (7-4) or Boise State (8-4).
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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