Football, Sports, WVU Sports

West Virginia was more than happy to take the SEC’s spot in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl

MORGANTOWN — The Charlotte Sports Foundation was in a tough spot on Sunday. 

The CSF has contracts for teams in the ACC and SEC to play in its Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, NC; however, the SEC did not have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill its contracts this season and the ACC took a long time to decide which of its teams were playing in what bowls.

That led to West Virginia, of the Big 12, to work into the picture and eventually set a matchup with the ACC’s North Carolina on Dec. 27 (5:30 p.m., ESPN).

“The whole bowl season you end up playing whack-a-mole almost every year; this one just had more of them,” CFS executive director Danny Morrison said over Zoom Tuesday. “The fact that the Big 12 had an extra bowl-eligible team certainly worked out well in our favor. West Virginia is a perfect fit for us and our bowl and we were able to get a quality opponent in North Carolina. It’s one of those days where there seem to be moving parts all throughout the day and then you get thrilled at the matchup you have at the end.”

Not only was the Duke’s Mayo Bowl happy to take West Virginia, but the Mountaineers were even happier to go.

“We’re really excited about representing the Big 12 in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “Sunday was an interesting day, but I think it landed in a really good place.

“You usually find out your bowl assignment pretty quick. The ACC took a long time and so I didn’t find our bowl assignment until I was sitting in a home visit on Sunday night. I couldn’t be more pleased, a great location, great bowl game.”

Morgantown being within driving distance of Charlotte (about six hours) was a big plus for both sides.

“As you work through all of the various scenarios, you try to come out with what might make the most sense,” Morrison explained. “The best bowl experiences are when fans can drive. You have more fans and a better environment and so geographics, in this particular case, worked in our favor.”

Not only does Charlotte geographically make sense for WVU, but UNC (8-4, 4-4 ACC), was exactly the type of opponent Brown was hoping for.

“Where we were the whole time was, we wanted to play a Power 5 opponent in the bowl game,” Brown said. “I felt like that was important and that was what we centered our discussions on. I thought it was a tremendous opportunity. 

“I thought if we could play an ACC team in a bowl game it’s a good fit. It’s either regional rivalries or games that our fans would be interested in.”

The Mountaineers were projected to play in several bowls across several states before the official announcement was made Sunday night. Experts had WVU playing anywhere from Orlando, Fla. to several cities in Texas to out west in Arizona.

“The bowl system’s changed in the last few years,” Brown said. “It used to be after your last game you had a pretty good understanding of where you might go. For us, the pendulum swung several different games last week.”

Brown said he was watching his son play basketball Sunday when WVU athletic director Wren Baker called and pitched him the possibility of playing in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. 

“We’re thrilled about this matchup,” Morrison said. “We think it’s one of the best matchups in all of bowl season to have West Virginia and North Carolina. Two great programs, two wonderful brand names and we think it’s going to be an exciting day.”

Duke’s Mayo became the presenting sponsor of the bowl game in 2020, rebranding from the Belk Bowl. Shortly after, the idea to shower the victorious head coach in a tub of mayonnaise was born. Thus far, South Carolina’s Shane Beamer and Maryland’s Mike Locksley are the only coaches to have done so, but Brown said he is willing to add his name to the list should the Mountaineers win.

“Yes, if that means a ninth win, I’ll gladly take the bath,” Brown said.

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