Notre Dame keeps BCS hopes alive

Updated: November 6, 2009, 3:07 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Charlie Weis likes his team's chances of earning a Bowl Championship Series berth -- if No. 19 Notre Dame keeps winning.

Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett does, too. Catlett said the Gator Bowl would love to have a Fighting Irish team that finishes 10-2, but can't imagine it happening.

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"I can tell you that four BCS bowl directors are hoping they finish 10-2 and in the top 14 in the BCS poll," Catlett said.

That's because Notre Dame, with its tradition of eight national championships, seven Heisman Trophy winners and a national fan base, brings TV ratings and strong ticket sales.

"Everyone involved in the bowl business is aware of Notre Dame, aware of their fan base, aware of the economic impact it would have on their bowl," Rose Bowl executive director Mitch Dorger said.

But there has been plenty of speculation that the Irish could be left out at 10-2. With TCU or Boise State likely earning an automatic BCS berth, and the Southeastern Conference virtually a lock to grab an at-large bid along with its guaranteed spot, two berths likely would be left. The Irish could be competing for those spots with USC, a team that beat the Irish last month, the second-place Big Ten team and others.

Borger, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan and Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms said Thursday that Notre Dame wouldn't be a sure thing for a BCS berth at 10-2.

"Are they an attractive team? Undoubtedly," Hoolahan said. "Will they be attractive enough? It's hard to say at this point."

The Irish have been left out at 10-2 before, in Tyrone Willingham's first year as coach in 2002. But that team was embarrassed 44-13 by USC in the regular season-finale. In 1998, the Irish were left out at 9-2. Both seasons the Irish played in the Gator Bowl.

The Irish (6-2) must finish in the top 14 of the final BCS standings to be eligible to play in the Fiesta, Orange, Rose or Sugar bowls. A top eight finish guarantees a berth. Heading into Saturday's game against Navy (6-3), the Irish are 22nd.

The Irish play one team ahead of them next week, No. 14 Pittsburgh (7-1), which is 13th in the BCS standings. Plenty of other teams ahead of the Irish still play one another, including this week's games: No. 9 LSU at No. 3 Alabama; and No. 15 Ohio State at No. 11 Penn State.

"We've just got to take care of our business. We can't worry about what everyone else is doing," Weis said. "They're going to knock each other off the way it happens every year."

Notre Dame's history wouldn't give them an advantage, Poms said.

"There are a lot of teams out there that have a lot of rich history; Notre Dame is one of them," Poms said. "But we have to look at a lot of factors, including what works best for that particular year and what other programs would be in play."

Dorger said if somehow Iowa got into the BCS national championship game, it would be hard for the Rose Bowl to pass on Penn State if the Nittany Lions finished 11-1.

If not picked for the BCS, the Irish could go to the Gator or Cotton bowls -- the last year in their contracts that either of those two bowls can invite the Irish.

"This is going to be our last shot," Catlett said.

The Irish would need to be at least 8-4, Catlett said.

If the Irish don't earn a BCS berth and aren't invited to either the Gator or Cotton Bowl, they would have to wait and see which bowls are unable to fill their slots because Notre Dame isn't part of any other bowl agreements, school spokesman John Heisler said.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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