Done deal: Rutgers football is going to Gator Bowl to play Wake Forest
Rutgers is officially going bowling.
The NCAA Football Oversight Committee on Thursday announced that it had confirmed its previously approved rule of selecting 5-7 teams for bowl participation, meaning teams with the highest Academic Progress Rate score would get the first chances to accept or decline.
The Scarlet Knights had the highest score. And they accepted in an announcement made later that day on social media.
Now they're headed for the Gator Bowl to take on No. 19 Wake Forest on Dec. 31 at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville.
This will be the Scarlet Knights’ first bowl appearance since 2014.
“This is an exciting time for Rutgers,” coach Greg Schiano said in a statement. “I’m so happy for our players to be able to experience a great bowl game atmosphere. Anytime you can go out and test yourself against the country’s top talent, it creates a tremendous opportunity for our players to grow and develop. We are looking forward to having the chance to CHOP one more time in 2021.”
It’s a stunning turn of events for Schiano’s team, which ended the regular season with a 40-16 loss to Maryland back on Nov. 27, a loss that seemingly ended Rutgers’ season at 5-7, one win short of bowl eligibility.
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Since there were enough six-win teams to fill out all 82 bowl spots, no 5-7 teams were needed.
That will require getting the whole team back on campus – some are still at Rutgers since final exams did not end until Thursday.
The Football Oversight Committee stressed the need for player safety and said in a statement that "schools are encouraged to consult, as necessary, with applicable campus risk managers and medical personnel to determine how best to address these and other student-athlete health and safety considerations."
It also said any bowl game can be pushed back as late as Jan. 10 to accommodate teams that might need more time.
That’s just one of the logistical hurdles that need to be sorted out.
One of the others centers on the eligibility of players who are headed for the NFL and have potentially already hired agents. Key players like wide receiver Bo Melton, running back Isaih Pacheco, defensive end Mike Tverdov and nose guard Julius Turner fall into that group, as well as linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi.
It's also possible that some of those players would choose not to
It’s also possible that some players had post-season surgeries to repair injuries, and their availability would clearly be uncertain.
Regardless, the Scarlet Knights’ are headed to a bowl in a highly unexpected way.
Rutgers’ season isn’t over after all.