La Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde told The Associated Press that Independence Bowl organizers offered a spot in their game on Saturday afternoon, but the Bulldogs had other possible options still available to them. Van De Velde said he asked the Independence Bowl for more time to make a decision, but was told by game organizers that they couldn’t wait.
“Nobody turned a bowl bid down,” he said. “We asked for more time to vet two other opportunities that we had that we felt good about.”
Van De Velde said he told the Independence Bowl organizers: “Anybody you are going to get to replace us will be there on Sunday. Just give us time to evaluate these opportunities.”
The Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., had already invited Louisiana-Monroe from the Sun Belt Conference.
Independence Bowl chairman Jack Andres said organizers had to set a deadline for Louisiana Tech. They were concerned if they waited they would be stuck with a team that was barely bowl eligible and too far away from Shreveport to bring many fans to the game.
“We had to make some decisions to get somebody in there. We’ve got sponsors, hotels. There’s a lot of money riding on this,” he said.
“Before we made another deal we called them back. We said, ‘We’re still willing to have you at the bowl, but need to know fairly quickly.’ So we gave them a deadline and they didn’t call us back until way later than that. If you don’t call us back, that’s a ‘No.’ And we made another deal so we’d have a quality bowl team.”
The bowl ended up selecting Ohio University from the Mid-American Conference.
Louisiana Tech plays in the Western Athletic Conference, which is going away as a football conference next season and has only one bowl tie-in, with the Idaho Potato Bowl. The spot went to league champion Utah State.
La Tech is moving to Conference USA next season.
Van De Velde said he was working with C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky on possibly getting the Bulldogs into the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl. When Oklahoma and Kansas State both won, it looked as if the Big 12 would have two teams in the BCS and that could create room in either of those games for La Tech.
But, Van De Velde said, when Northern Illinois slipped into the Bowl Championship Series, taking a possible BCS bid away from Oklahoma, it started a domino effect that filled those spots with Big 12 teams.
“I think we’re just shocked Northern Illinois jumped that high,” Van De Velde said. “I’m happy for them, but I’m disappointed for us.”
The Big 12 had nine bowl-eligible nine teams.
Iowa State (6-6) landed in the Liberty Bowl to play C-USA champion Tulsa as an at-large pick. Oklahoma State (7-5) ended up filling Big 12’s final spot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue.
“I think we’re all disappointed,” Van De Velde said. “But when you’re in a non-AQ conference and you’re in the at-large pool, this is what can happen. Especially when bowls are electing to take teams that are 6-6 over teams that are 9-3.”
Louisiana Tech spent five weeks in the AP Top 25 this season, reaching as high as 19. The Bulldogs badly beat Virginia and Illinois, two teams from automatic qualifying conferences, on the road early in the season, and lost 59-57 to Texas A&M in Shreveport.
They finished on a two-game losing streak, falling to WAC champion Utah State and San Jose State, which accepted a bid to the Military Bowl in Washington against Bowling Green, by a combined 16 points.
Behind quarterback Colby Cameron and running back Kenneth Dixon, La Tech averaged 51 points and 578 yards per game.
“Under no circumstances did I ever think there was any possibility at all that we would not play in a bowl game,” coach Sonny Dykes said in a statement. “It is a shame that our nationally recognized team and its 31 seniors have to end the season this way.”
And on top of being left out of the postseason, Louisiana Tech is facing the prospect of losing Dykes.
Van De Velde said the coach had interviewed with California and that Louisiana Tech was waiting to find out if Dykes would be staying with the Bulldogs.
-- RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer