The estimated 1,500 fans who filled Vanderbilt’s student life center roared in approval when athletic director David Williams announced Sunday that the Commodores were going to the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The Commodores (8-4) will meet Houston (8-4) for the first time on Jan. 4 (TV: ESPN, 1 p.m.) at Birmingham’s Legion Field.
There was an equally boisterous contingency of fans on social media Sunday night expressing frustration that a team sharing the SEC’s sixth best overall record (4-4, same as Texas A&M) was the league’s 10th and final bowl selection.
“I don’t know why anybody would be frustrated. We’re going to a bowl game,” Williams told reporters after the celebration. “Why take it out on the SEC? This is a process that we have operated under for at least the last six years – that’s the length of the last (bowl) contract.
“I just think what people need to do is get behind their team. … When people look at things, they want to see how you do (in attendance). And let’s face it, the last home game we played, that stadium was not full. So let’s not blame anybody else. Let’s just do what we’ve got to do, and the task at hand right now is to fill up t he stadium in Birmingham and beat Houston.” This is the first time coach James Franklin will take his team across the state line for a bowl game.
Vanderbilt played in the 2011 Liberty Bowl in Memphis and stayed home for the 2012 Music City Bowl in Nashville. The Commodores last played in a bowl at Legion Field 31 when it lost to Air Force in the 1982 Hall of Fame Bowl.
The Compass Bowl is among the last of the 35 games on the 2013-14 bowl schedule. Only the GoDaddy Bowl (Jan. 5) and BCS National Championship(Jan. 6) come after it.
Vanderbilt’s invitation did not come until 5:32 p.m. Sunday, Williams said. While the Compass Bowl was shaping up to be destination by the midway point of last week, the SEC bowl picture didn’t get finalized until the last minute. The Compass Bowl did not send a representative to Vanderbilt for the a n nouncement.
“It was a progression and there’s a lot of discussions that take place,” Compass Bowl executive director Mark Meadows said by phone. “Where we pick in the order, we’re happy to be able to make Vanderbilt our selection.” Franklin called for fans to match the Compass Bowl-record 55,000 who attended Ole Miss’ 38-17 win over Pittsburgh last year. He also praised his seniors, hugging them as they came on stage.
“To me that’s the most important thing, is the opportunity to stay together as a family for a few more days,” Franklin said.