ATLANTA -- The announcement of Georgia Tech's ninth straight
bowl bid didn't go over too well with the school's basketball fans.
During a break late in the Yellow Jackets' 63-54 home basketball
victory over Virginia Sunday came the announcement that Tech's
football team will play Utah in the Emerald Bowl. The fans
responded with loud boos.
The reaction from Tech's players was more civil, though hardly
"Is it a new bowl?" asked senior safety Chris Reis. "Well,
it's new to me."
The Emerald Bowl is in its fourth season. Navy beat New Mexico
in last year's game.
The trip to San Francisco for the Dec. 29 game will be Tech's
fourth bowl expedition west in the last five years.
This year, Tech thought it had earned the right to play in a
bowl game closer to home after beating two teams -- Auburn and Miami
-- that finished the regular season in the top 10.
Tech finished 7-4 and No. 24 with a close 14-7 loss to Georgia
to end the regular season.
Tech was thought to be in position for an invitation to the
Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. Instead, the Music City Bowl
invited a 6-5 Virginia team.
Another 6-5 Atlantic Coast Conference team, North Carolina
State, will play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.
"We had higher expectations as a team," said linebacker Gerris Wilkinson. "But we were able to keep our bowl streak going, so
that's a good thing."
Added Wilkinson: "We just tried to win as many games as we
could. The rest is out of our control. We did all we could."
Adding to Tech's disappointment Sunday was the news the Yellow
Jackets would have been invited to play in the Peach Bowl if not
for Virginia Tech's upset loss to Florida State in the ACC
championship game Saturday night. The upset opened the way for
Miami to make a repeat visit to Atlanta to play LSU in the Peach
"I'm from here. It's my hometown," Reis said of the lost
opportunity to play in the Peach Bowl. "It's easier for most of
the guys to get here. ... We've just got to roll with it."
The trip to San Francisco will add to Tech's recent history of
long travel to bowl games. Tech capped the 2001 season with a win
over Stanford in the Seattle Bowl, followed by a loss to Fresno
State in the 2002 Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif. Tech
beat Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho after the 2003
season. The Yellow Jackets beat Syracuse in the Champs Sports Bowl
in Orlando last season.
Tech coach Chan Gailey tried to put a positive spin on the bowl
"We're happy to be going there," Gailey said. "It's a good
bowl and I'm sure we'll have a good time. Anytime you can go to a
bowl, it's a reward for having a good season."
Utah is 6-5, capping its regular season with a 41-34 overtime
victory over rival Brigham Young to become bowl-eligible.
The Utes are coached by Kyle Whittingham, hired after Urban
Meyer moved to Florida following the 2004 season. Meyer and
quarterback Alex Smith led Utah to an undefeated regular season
last year and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
"Utah in the Emerald Bowl is a perfect fit for us," said Utah
director of athletics Chris Hill. "San Francisco is close enough
to Salt Lake City that our fans will easily be able to make the
trip. We also have a large alumni base in the Bay Area, and we look
forward to seeing many of them as well."