Who's to blame for UL's bowl snub?

by Nathan Stubbs

Coach Rickey Bustle takes responsibility for not winning a seventh game, but we have a few thoughts of our own. After its best season in years and finishing a close second behind Sun Belt Conference champion Troy, this was supposed to be the year the Ragin’ Cajuns snapped their 38-year bowl spell. But on bowl selection day, the Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t get an invite, a snub that has sparked outrage and bewilderment across all UL sports fan outlets from the Raginpagin blog to Jay Walker’s radio show. The Motor City Bowl passed over UL for the Sun Belt’s fourth place finisher, Florida Atlantic. Even more puzzling was the Shreveport Independence Bowl reaching all the way to the Mid-American Conference’s fifth place team, Northern Illinois, to play against Louisiana Tech rather than selecting UL. With the Sun Belt having contracts in place that should have guaranteed its runner-up a bowl spot, politics clearly came into play.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have taken the high road and rightly shouldered the blame. Coach Rickey Bustle says that had the Cajuns won one more game they wouldn’t be in this situation. Still it’s always much more fun to cast aspersions than point the finger at yourself. So who’s to blame? We break down the leading suspects:

1. The Sun Belt Conference/Wright Waters – The obvious culprit. Last year, Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters secured deals with the bowl and the Independence Bowl that were supposed to guarantee Sun Belt teams priority. UL Coach Rickey Bustle says every coach in the conference was under the impression that the magic number of wins was six. But apparently, the fine print gave the bowls an out unless a Sun Belt team had seven wins. For more on Wright Waters, see Bob Heist’s indictment, titled “Agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on,” in The Daily Advertiser.

2. Glen Krupica – Deputy athletic director for external affairs at Northern Illinois, Krupica played a lead role in selling the school to the Independence Bowl. Just so happens he also served as the Independence Bowl’s executive director from 1994-2005. Krupica pleads his innocence in The Daily Advertiser, telling the paper that his connections to Shreveport “might have been a small benefit but nothing significant. We worked like every other team.” Sure you did.

3. Frank Brogan – Florida Atlantic University certainly scored a coup by finishing fourth in the Sun Belt and still managing to leapfrog UL into the Motor City Bowl. It’s probably just a coincidence that FAU President Frank Brogan serves as president of the Sun Belt’s executive committee and is on the NCAA’s 17-member board of directors.

4. ESPN – Who are we kidding? College football and the bowl selection process is driven entirely by TV ratings and controlled by corporate fat cats at places like ESPN (read: Disney) and NBC (General Electric). They pick the teams they feel deliver the biggest TV audience. It’s the only logical explanation for why the Shreveport Independence Bowl taps a fifth-place Mid-American Conference team in Chicago over UL.

5. LSU – There’s no way LSU could be behind this, right? Don’t be so sure. For a certain segment of Ragin’ Cajun Nation, anything and everything that goes wrong is due to in-state arch-nemesis LSU. There’s a lot of pent-up animosity here from conspiracy theory yore about how LSU does everything in its power to keep UL down, from foiling its name change to stealing its money in the state Legislature. You’ve got to reach pretty far to pin the bowl snub on LSU, but Independent Weekly reader John Mikell called in with what could be the missing link: Independence Bowl Executive Director Missy Setters is not only an LSU alum but also worked in the LSU Sports Information office for three years.

6. La. Tech – Tech had high hopes that it might end up playing in a more prestigious game than the Independence Bowl, but its season-ending loss to Nevada sealed its fate. Still, Tech being only slightly less antagonistic toward UL Lafayette than LSU, as well as a recruiting rival, the thought that it might have to play UL — and likely getting beat — in its own backyard bowl was unbearable. Tech lobbied hard to keep UL out of the Independence Bowl. According to some sources, Tech even threatened to opt into the Texas Bowl in Houston if UL ended up coming to Shreveport. What do you expect from a school whose most famous alum is Terry “I may be dumb but I’m not stupid” Bradshaw.

7. The BCS – Those damn computers. Everyone knows college football needs a playoff.

8. Ray Authement – Even in retirement, the former math professor and university president of 38 years still pulls all the strings and continues to sabotage all hope of any sport other than girls softball (his favorite) ever becoming a success. Rumor has it he secretly agreed to give the Independence Bowl a portion of the university’s horse farm property in exchange for passing over the Ragin’ Cajuns.

9. Jerry Baldwin – He won his lawsuit, but he still isn’t satisfied. Baldwin threatened to sue any bowl that invited UL as accomplices to a racist conspiracy to keep him from continuing to coach at UL while never having to actually win a game.

10. McNeese – The team UL can’t beat. McNeese gives credibility to anyone arguing UL was rightfully shut out of a bowl. All it has to do is point out that the Cajuns couldn’t even beat that Division II-A Lake Charles university last year.