Given Clemson's grand preseason football hopes, a postseason trip to Idaho might sound like small potatoes.
But Tigers football coach Tommy Bowden said accepting an at-large bid to the Dec. 31 Humanitarian Bowl beats the alternative of staying home for the holidays.
"The team, staff and support personnel are really, really happy to be going," said Bowden, whose team will play Western Athletic Conference champion Louisiana Tech (8-4) at 12:30 p.m. EST on New Year's Eve.
The bowl selected the Tigers (6-5) over Mississippi (7-4) on Tuesday after UCLA pulled its name from consideration a day earlier.
Tuesday was a relieving end to a whirlwind 48 hours for Clemson's athletics department. On Sunday, the Tigers were confident that their postseason destination would require sunscreen and not snowshoes.
But the Orlando, Fla.-based Tangerine Bowl passed up Clemson in favor of North Carolina State, leading the Tigers on a desperate search to secure a bowl invitation.
A few hours later, Clemson's next option fell through when the Silicon Valley Classic took Michigan State as its at-large team. That left the Tigers facing a discomforting reality - Humanitarian Bowl, or no bowl at all.
The athletics department and thousands of fans spent Monday bombarding the Humanitarian Bowl's offices with propaganda and assurances that the Tigers would take enough fans to help fill 30,000-seat Bronco Stadium.
Bowden even took to the airwaves to deliver his pitch, boldly announcing on an Idaho Sports Talk radio show that 10,000 to 15,000 Clemson fans would travel more than 2,000 miles during the holidays to watch a team that lost four of its last six games.
Now, the question is whether Tiger faithful can put their money where Bowden's mouth is. The bowl will require Clemson to sell a minimum 8,000 tickets at $33 apiece.
The Tigers will get a $750,000 payout from the bowl, and the Atlantic Coast Conference will chip in $250,000 to give the team a budget of $1 million for the seven-day trip.
"Even if we didn't break even, we just looked at it as an investment in the program and a reward for our players," said Clemson athletics director Bobby Robinson.
The game, the first-ever meeting between Clemson and Louisiana Tech, will serve as a preview of the Tigers' second game of the 2002 season. The Bulldogs will visit Death Valley on Sept. 7.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.
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