Some Gamecocks fans weren't exactly overjoyed when news broke South Carolina was bound for the Birmingham Bowl.
Memories still linger from the 2010 trip, a day with bad weather when a listless Gamecocks squad lost 20-7 to UConn, with then-coach Steve Spurrier apologizing to the fans who made the trip.
With that game and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., as the SEC's bottom two tie-ins, there was some sentiment hoping for a trip to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, where Arkansas will go instead. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said that was one of four bowls the team had requested the SEC send them to, and athletic director Ray Tanner said he felt the school's voice was heard through the decision process.
"Absolutely I think it was heard," Tanner said. "It wasn't that I was steadfast about, 'Charlotte or nothing.' That wasn't the case. The case was, I think I listed four possible opportunities according to the way I looked at it, but the voice was absolutely heard. Everything goes into it, it can be location. It can be RPI. It can be head-to-head. It can be league record."
After SEC teams are selected to the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowls, the Citrus Bowl gets third pick, and then things start falling to the conference. The next six tie-ins (Outback, Music City, TaxSlayer, Liberty, Belk, Texas), also called the pool of six, are much more fluid. Those bids are in the league's hands, and it places them as they see fit. The Independence and Birmingham Bowls come in the next tier.
In setting the whole thing, there are behind-the-scenes conversations, input from the schools and an organic process of sorts.
"There's no exact slot," Tanner said. "If you went to one bowl this year, then you might not go to that bowl the next year just because you went the year before. So the pool of six is really decided by the SEC office. Are the schools involved? Yes."
He was in Atlanta over the weekend for the SEC Championship Game and said he was involved in some of the conversations. He admitted it would have been nice to play so close in Charlotte, but was content with the outcome.
He also made his pitch to fans, pointing out how unlike the 2014 Independence Bowl the day after Christmas and the last Birmingham trip the day after New Year's, the Dec. 29 date offers no holiday conflicts.
"The bowl game falls in between," Tanner said. "So it's the perfect time. Let's go support coach Muschamp and these seniors and this team that wasn't going to accept a transition and not having an opportunity to go to a bowl game.
"Let's celebrate what these young men have been able to do."