Virginia weighs the pros, cons of a bowl invitation
“Me being home for the holidays is something that, I’m definitely leaning more towards not taking a bowl game,” said safety Joey Blount, talking with reporters via Zoom on Monday, ahead of Virginia’s regular-season finale against in-state ACC rival Virginia Tech.
Blount was a freshman in 2017 when that team was the first from UVA in six years to get a bowl invite, a sophomore on the 2018 team that notched the program’s first bowl win since 2005, and a junior on the 2019 team that secured the first Orange Bowl bid for the Cavaliers ever.
And now he’s a senior in 2020 who hasn’t been able to see his family since getting back on Grounds on July 5 to begin summer workouts, ahead of training camp in August, the season starting in September, and here we are, still playing into mid-December.
UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall understands. He made that clear in answering a question about the push from the ACC to reschedule the Cavaliers’ game at Florida State that was lost to controversial circumstances two weeks ago.
“I’m mindful of our program, our players and doing the very best I can for them, and having Boston College at home and then Virginia Tech on the road as their last two regular-season games, that’s the appropriate finish for our team,” Mendenhall said.
“I can’t speak for any others, and a lot of times it’s just more than inventory, it’s more just than TV. And sometimes, coaches and administrations have to speak up and look after the well-being of a student-athletes, who have been here for 23 weeks straight after a 17-week break of not seeing their coaches, so it’s been long.”
That was specific to the FSU game, though.
Mendenhall didn’t tip his hand in regard to a possible bowl invite, though he has been clear and consistent all season that any decisions on that would be made in consultation with, and in the best interests of, his players.
Offensive lineman Joe Bissinger, also made available to media via Zoom today, was noncommittal on a possible bowl game, for his part in the matter.
“We’re just focused on Tech this week at this point. That’s all we’re focused on. And we’re not really thinking about the future. We’re just focused on beating Tech,” Bissinger said.
Another factor here is that Virginia is finally playing well. After a 1-4 start, the ‘Hoos have won four straight, and the offense is, in particular, on a roll, having scored 30 or more points in all four of the win.
“We’re gaining momentum. We’re playing well, and I’m really excited about that component,” Mendenhall said, before addressing the elephant in the room.
“Everyone in college football has been on their campuses for a long time. And if you frankly think now about not just this game or the games that are coming up for these teams, postseason announcements won’t come until the 20th, games will happen after that, and so players potentially have a chance to be on Grounds, without school without other students, and away from their families for Christmas, to avoid the quarantine when you have to come back for longer.
“I think everyone’s excited about playing and playing football,” Mendenhall said. “When you think about extending longer for any college team now, that becomes a different challenge. So, we’re excited to play. We’re anxious to play,” Mendenhall said.
It doesn’t take much to read into that answer, and Bissinger’s, that the final game of the 2020 season for Virginia is coming up in a few days down the road in Blacksburg.
And you shouldn’t get upset if you’re a fan should that be the decision.
“I would think a bowl game is a very high honor to take. But I think with this season, and everything that everyone has sacrificed and been through, you know, it may be time if we could decide not to take a bowl game,” Blount said.
“If we do take a bowl game, everyone will play. There’s personal opinions on that matter. I don’t want to speak for the team. But I mean, I would not mind spending Christmas with my family after the whole COVID pandemic has been going on. Not really being able to be with them the way I would like to be as I was in the past, and having people with their families not being able to come to games, there’s a lot of circumstances that surround that issue.”
Beat Tech, and go hug your mom.
Story by Chris Graham