Cougars troll for best bowl

Heart of Dallas bowl game would be homecoming of sorts for WSU coach Mike Leach, center with headphones on. (Associated Press)

On Monday, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos began the process of trying to secure a bowl berth for the football team in earnest. With a 6-6 record, the Cougars are eligible for a bowl berth, but are not guaranteed a spot in the postseason.

The Pac-12 Conference has contractual ties with seven bowl games but nine teams in the conference are bowl-eligible. As such, it is up to the athletic directors at the three teams tied for seventh in the conference – Arizona, Oregon State and Washington State – to sell other bowls on the merits of granting an at-large invitation to their respective teams.

Because conference championship games have yet to be played, and the teams that will play in BCS bowls have yet to be decided, it is uncertain which specific bowls will have vacancies.

“My practice is to look at what the possibilities are throughout all scenarios and then try to make the case for why we’d be a good fit,” Moos said. “But some of it would be for naught if next week plays out that conferences are contracted to those bowls can fill the slots.”

The New Mexico Bowl has the final pick of the Pac-12 teams, and will likely be choosing between UA, OSU and WSU. As such, Moos acknowledged on his weekly radio show that he considers that destination to be particularly desirable.

Representatives of the bowl say that the athletic director has already been in contact with them.

“Bill’s talked about the progress of the program and how fired up their fan base is and the direction the program is heading,” Jeff Siembieda, executive director of the New Mexico Bowl, said. “And the fans’ history of travel and the highlights throughout the season. So, Bill builds a very compelling case.”

While Siembieda acknowledged that WSU is an appealing school to the bowl, he threw cold water on one theoretical advantage the Cougars had.

Moos has said that a selling point to bowls in or near Texas is that because Cougars coach Mike Leach used to coach at Texas Tech, as many as 500-2,000 fans of his former teams would be willing to make the trek to the bowl game.

“I don’t know how to monetize that or how big of a factor that is,” Siembieda said. “I don’t know that it would be a reason for picking Washington State over, say, someone else because their head coach used to coach kind of in the region.”

However, representatives of the Heart of Dallas Bowl acknowledged that it could be a factor in WSU’s favor earlier in the week.

The Wildcats could be WSU’s stiffest competition for a spot in the New Mexico Bowl. UA participated in the game last year and won a close 49-48 contest against Nevada. The Wildcats also have a 7-5 record with a win over highly ranked Oregon, albeit the week following a loss to WSU.

“I have nothing but great things to say about Arizona,” Siembieda said. “They’re welcome back in our game any time.”

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