Florida Bowl Drought is Over for Hoosiers, Get Tennessee in Gator Bowl
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana has never played in a bowl in Florida, but that's going to change come Jan. 2, 2020.
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass and head coach Tom Allen heard from Gator Bowl CEO Rich Catlett about 4 p.m. Sunday. He offered the Hoosiers a spot in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, and the Hoosiers gladly accepted a big to the historic game, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
"Our kids are excited. We have a lot of kids from Florida and the Southeast and they're excited about playing there, and our fans are as well,'' Allen said during a conference call.
Indiana was a team on the move this season, finishing 8-4, the first time it had won eight games since 1993. Tennessee is also a team on the rise, battling back from a horrific 1-3 start to the season to win five straight games and finish the season 7-5.
"We're excited to have an opportunity to continue our season, and we're excited about playing Indiana. It's going to be a great challenge for us,'' Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. "I'm really proud of the opportunity this team has presented itself with. The off week (after the 1-3 start) was a huge deal. It kind of turned our season around.''
Glass was thrilled to accept the invite after the Hoosiers had missed a bowl first two seasons of Allen's coaching career.
“Every day is a great day to be a Hoosier, but today is a particularly great day,'' Glass said.
Unlike the SEC, the Big Ten pecking order basically held true, with one exception. Ohio State was selected for the College Football Playoff and will play Clemson in the semifinals. Wisconsin, the Big Ten runner-up, was chosen for the Rose Bowl to play Oregon. Penn State got a New Year's Six bowl as well, getting paired with Memphis in the Cotton Bowl.
Then it was the Citrus Bowl's turn, and they somewhat surprisingly took 9-3 Michigan over 10-2 Minnesota. That left the Gophers for the Outback Bowl in Tampa for a match with Auburn and Iowa was selected by the Holiday Bowl to play USC.
That left the Gator bowl to choose, and Indiana was a no-brainer for them, and for more than just the Hoosiers' 8-4 record.
Their SEC selection wasn't so simple. Getting one less team in that upper tier of playoff and New Year's Six games meant everyone got pushed down a slot in the bowl pecking order.
"This selection process is very fluid, and we've all been through this a number of times. It's my 28th year,'' Catlett said. "You have to let it the (College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowls work out.
"As that shook out, it was very orderly, but when the SEC didn't get four up, it changed. it was omething you have to wait on. We had other teams is our mix, like there always is, but I had told Coach Fulmer a few weeks ago that Tennessee was our No. 1 choice.''
Catlett said wanting Indiana was a no-brainer.
"Indiana has never played in a bowl game in Florida, and how could you not want to see that happen?'' he said.