Selection Sunday has come and gone, much like the opportunity to see the highest-octane offense in college football, despite Louisiana Tech's 9-3 record.
Sunday afternoon, as sunlight gave way to darkness, we saw how low Tech's program could go. News spread rather quickly that Louisiana Tech... with a Sammy Baugh Trophy winning Quarterback, a couple of NFL ready receivers, a freshman sensation at running back, a Ray Guy award winning punter and one of the most coveted head coaches in the country...would be home, literally, for Christmas.
How could this happen? A couple of weeks ago on the radio show, Dykes said the Dogs would like to play in a Bowl game close to Ruston, "but not too close." I heard from an Independence Bowl official a few hours after the show, offended at the perceived knock on the Bowl Game closest to Lincoln Parish. The following week, there was a message from Louisiana Tech to the Independence Bowl that, if invited, they would not agree to play a Sun Belt team, i.e., UL-Monroe. A few days passed and Tech reportedly backed off a bit from their earlier declaration---indicating a game against Middle Tennessee would be welcome. All this time, Louisiana Tech was working toward playing in a higher paying bowl game against a more desirable foe from a stouter conference. The Liberty Bowl, which pays out $300-$500,000 more than the Independence Bowl, looked like a primary position for Tech to land. If only the football gods would align.
Like a well-disciplined special teams unit, they did align.
First, Northern Illinois knocked Kent out of the BCS picture, leaving space for a blue blood like Oklahoma. Next, OU beat TCU which should have moved the Sooners high enough in the BCS standings to get to the Orange bowl. Finally Texas needed to lose, according to my source inside Tech athletics, in order to compete the equation for the Bulldogs to be Beale St bound. The Longhorns unhappily obliged. Unfortunately for LA Tech, Northern Illinois surged into the BCS top 16 taking the Orange Bowl slot previously considered to be Oklahoma's. The Sooners' fall from grace started a domino effect felt all the way to Ruston, Louisiana.
Meanwhile, with some uncertainty over Tech's Bowl aspirations, Tech's interim conference commissioner stepped in and asked for the I-Bowl to please consider Tech, despite the earlier declaration from Tech's hierarchy. Friday evening, the I-Bowl selection committee voted unanimously to issue an invitation to Tech. Our sources said Tech informed the I-Bowl that they couldn't accept yet---there were still a couple of bigger bowls out there, possibly with Tech's name on the tickets. As the weekend approached and bowl slots started filling up, both sides in this story became antsy. "What if Tech does get a Liberty Bowl invite, and we're stuck with a 6-6 team that won't travel from PAC-12 country?" Tech worried, "what IF the Liberty Bowl party doesn't include us...perhaps Shreveport would be a great place to play!"
The I-Bowl set up a contingent plan that featured Ohio from the MAC---if Tech declines. On Saturday, bowl officials issued another invitation to play UL-M in the Independence Bowl. Tech asked for more time to consult with top brass at the University. According to our sources with the bowl, the amount of time requested passed... and then some. These sources also said Tech did not call back until the next day, Sunday, asking to be considered for the slot opposite UL-M. By then it was too late. Ohio, at 8-4, was in. Tech, at 9-3 was not.
Could the IBowl had made a last day switch, reneging on their deal with Ohio? Sure. It would have made for a better hyped and much more interesting game. This move would also further solidify Tech's relationship with the biggest city in the region, Shreveport. But the bowl's name would have been mud in the post-season soirée sector. Louisiana Tech had their coveted spot in the Liberty Bowl taken by a 6-6 Iowa State team, praised by the Liberty Bowl for their record home attendance this season (55,000/game) and Big XII affiliation. Two things Tech certainly doesn't have in their corner.
In the end, an upset Sonny Dykes and his 31-senior-laden team have every right to feel cheated... at whom, remains the question. Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone, one of Tech's 2 most famous alums, tweeted Sunday night that new leadership is needed at Tech; someone that bleeds Tech blue. "I'm 6'9", I'm not that hard to find," Malone wrote. True. Much easier to find than Tech this Bowl Season.
Note: LA Tech's Athletic director Bruce Van de Velde joins us on the show at 8:30 Monday morning. Join us on the radio/radio pup app on 1130 AM KWKH.