South Carolina’s administrators were waiting Saturday like the school’s fan base to learn the Gamecocks’ postseason destination. South Carolina would prefer the Belk Bowl, which is played in Charlotte on Dec. 30 and would be an easier trip for the team’s fan base, but the final word isn’t expected until Sunday.
“We are big Gamecock fans,” said Will Webb, executive director of the Belk Bowl. “They are very high on our priority list.”
Belk Bowl officials have submitted their choice list to the SEC, but Webb declined to say if South Carolina is on top of that list or merely high on it. The Gamecocks’ other possible bowl destinations are believed to be the Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 3 and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Dec. 27.
Athletics director Ray Tanner said Saturday that South Carolina would have to wait to learn which SEC teams will play in the bowl games controlled by the College Football Playoff, which are the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl (which are the sites of the national semifinals this year) and Cotton, Peach, Orange and Fiesta bowls, before learning their fate.
If two SEC teams are selected for those games, it will move South Carolina up the pecking order. A Tennessee trip to the Liberty Bowl also would enhance the Gamecocks’ chances of playing in the Belk Bowl, and the Liberty Bowl has expressed interest in the Volunteers.
The four teams selected to play in the College Football Playoff will be announced at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN, and the remainder of the bowl games will be filled after that announcement. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier will hold a news conference at 7 p.m. to discuss the team’s bowl destination. South Carolina has been bowl eligible in each of Spurrier’s 10 seasons, and this will be their ninth bowl appearance under him.
The Gamecocks never have played in the Belk Bowl (formerly the Meineke Car Care Bowl and Continental Tire Bowl). They last played in the Independence Bowl in 2005 (a 38-31 loss to Missouri) and last played in the Birmingham Bowl in 2010, when it was the PapaJohns.com Bowl (a 20-7 loss to Connecticut).
“We are involved in a collaborative process that involves the league office,” Birmingham Bowl executive director Mark Meadows told The State via email this week. “We work to balance the needs of all involved based on the available pool of teams. It’s premature to speculate on that pool knowing there are a number of factors that still need to play out.”