GATOR BOWL Notre Dame's bid angers W. Virginia



The Irish will play North Carolina State.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Left out of the lucrative Bowl Championship Series, Notre Dame still managed to stir up some controversy with its Gator Bowl invitation.
This year, though, it wasn't from a higher-ranked team upset about being passed over for the higher-profile Irish. On Sunday, it was West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez questioning why the No. 11 Irish (10-2) are included in the Big East pool for bowl selections.
"I don't know if slighted is the right word, but I do question sometimes what is Notre Dame's affiliation with our league," said Rodriguez, whose No. 15 Mountaineers are 9-3.
Agreement with Big East
Notre Dame and the Big East entered the agreement in 1997 after Notre Dame found itself scrambling for a bowl after finishing the regular season 7-5, and the Big East went 0-4 in bowl games while Miami was on probation.
White, who was not at Notre Dame at the time, said the agreement made sense.
"I think it made a whole lot of sense to the Big East. It certainly seemed to make sense to Notre Dame or we wouldn't have participated in it," he said.
White seemed surprised by the question, especially coming shortly after he was asked whether he thought the Irish should have been a BCS selection.
"If I were in a position, I would have put us in the highest opportunity that would have been available," White said.
Rick Catlett, executive director of the Gator Bowl Association, was even more direct.
"To have an opportunity to have Notre Dame play, any bowl game in America would be absolutely standing on their head to make that happen. Some other bowls that decided not to take a 10-2 Irish, we're just thankful they made that mistake," he said.
Coach, team happy
Coach Tyrone Willingham and Notre Dame players showed no signs of disappointment. Willingham, who lobbied for a BCS berth, said he was excited about the Irish playing against No. 17 North Carolina State (10-3) on Jan. 1.
"We think the Gator Bowl provides us with a great opportunity to showcase our football team, our football program and our tradition," he said.
Washington State's win over UCLA had virtually assured the Irish they were out of the BCS. Three Irish players who attended the news conference Sunday night said they had watched neither the Washington State game nor the BCS selection show, saying they did not know what bowl they were headed to until a meeting with Willingham.
"We realized there are some things we have no control over so it makes no sense to worry about things we have no control over," strong safety Gerome Sapp said.
The Irish will go for their first bowl win and first top-10 finish since ending the 1993 season No. 2 after beating No. 7 Texas 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl.

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