Bowled over, Akron is left with zip

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

There's the GMAC Bowl, the Emerald Bowl, the Champs Sports Bowl, the Continental Tire Bowl and the MPC Computers Bowl.

Starting Tuesday with the New Orleans Bowl, 28 bowl games were scheduled for a three-week stretch, involving nearly half the teams in Division I-A.

More than enough, right?

Don't try telling that to the Akron Zips.

They were the only team in Division I-A eligible and willing to play in this postseason that got left out.

"Every team is going to think they belong if they qualify," quarterback Charlie Frye said.

Even at Akron, a school that has never been to a bowl game.

Finding 56 bowl eligible teams turned out to be more difficult than usual this season as the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conference all failed to produce enough bowl eligible teams to match the leagues' bowl tie-ins.

With an 11-game regular season, teams needed to be at least 6-5 -- and 6-6 wouldn't cut it for Michigan State and Northwestern, which both played a 12th regular-season game at Hawaii.

The task became even tougher when Clemson (6-5) and South Carolina (6-5) pulled out of postseason consideration after brawling during their Nov. 20 game. That left bowls looking down the list of conferences for eligible teams.

"As we sat down and looked at the numbers," Akron coach J.D. Brookhart said, "when the South Carolina and Clemson situation pulled them out it became a real a possibility for us."

The Zips ended their season with a loss to Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 20 to finish 6-5. They had two weeks to watch and hope.

But Hawaii (7-5)came from behind to beat Michigan State 41-38 and land the final bowl bid.

"We had the plan," Frye said, "but it just didn't work out."

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