TCU was unable to land a spot in the Bowl Championship Series. Now it appears the Horned Frogs may turn down the next best thing.
The school is planning to decline an expected invitation to the GMAC Bowl because of academic considerations, athletic director Eric Hyman told The Washington Post on Wednesday night.
TCU had its sights sets on a BCS bowl, but those hopes were dashed by a loss to Southern Miss on Nov. 20. As a result, the Horned Frogs will likely finish second in Conference USA and earn an invitation to the GMAC.
However, Hyman says the school will likely decline the bowl bid because the game falls in the middle of their exam period (Dec. 18). The bowl could have pitted a pair of impressive mid-majors (TCU and Miami-Ohio) against each other.
"I can't do that," TCU Athletic Director Eric Hyman told the Washington Post on Wednesday night. "I have to be sensitive to our young people. They are student-athletes, but they are also students, and they are coming to school to get an education. We cannot disrupt their exams. It's not fair to them."
A GMAC official was stunned by TCU's sentiments. Bowl president Jerry Silverstein told the newspaper he had informed Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky of plans to invite TCU.
"He told us everything is fine," Silverstein told the paper. "We have a seven-year deal with Conference USA and have never had a problem. I think [TCU] can do whatever they have to do to come down here. I would be absolutely shocked if they don't."
By passing on the bid, Hyman would be giving up the $750,000 bowl payout plus considerable national exposure.
"I understand why they want us," Hyman told the Post, referring to GMAC officials. "But on the flip side, I want them to understand that the priority for us this time of year is success in the classroom and in exams. There are alternatives to us."
Silverstein said he had no alternative plans. "I sympathize with them," Silverstein told the paper. "I never would ask a school to disrupt anything. But we have a bowl to put on. We are honorable people and hope they can resolve any problems they have."
"We've had several conversations, and they're ongoing," Hyman told the paper. "What I'm saying to them is real. It's not a matter of trying to position for something else."
Theoretically, TCU could still end up in another bowl with ties to Conference USA. The winner of Conference USA will be invited to the Liberty Bowl, but Southern Miss (8-3, 7-0) is in first place right now after beating TCU on Saturday.
The GMAC Bowl is entitled to select the second-place finisher. The Hawaii Bowl gets the next choice, followed by the Fort Worth Bowl. Memphis (8-3, 5-3) is third in the Conference USA standings. Louisville (8-3, 4-3) is fourth. TCU has one regular-season game remaining, against SMU on Saturday.
Hyman told the newspaper that the Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 25) and Fort Worth Bowl (Dec. 23) would not conflict with TCU's exam schedule.
In two previous GMAC Bowl appearances, TCU (10-1, 7-1) held its exams one week earlier.
"We have gone down to the GMAC Bowl and had a wonderful experience," Hyman told the paper. "But this is bigger than a bowl game."