It’s now official: West Virginia will play Florida State in the 2010 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on New Year’s Day.

It is the third time West Virginia has faced Florida State in the Gator Bowl, losing the previous two meetings against the Seminoles in 1982 and 2005.

“We think this is going to be a tremendous matchup on a bunch of different levels,” said Gator Bowl chairman Dan Murphy. “It’s our last year with the Big East. The West Virginia Mountaineers – their fans, their entire program, the entire staff associated with West Virginia – have absolutely been tremendous partners for us and we’re real excited to have them join us this year.

“This will be Coach Bobby Bowden’s last game and we couldn’t be prouder to invite the Florida State Seminoles and have Coach Bowden coach his last game against a team he coached for a number of years back in the 1970s, and also a team that he began his current bowl streak against here in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl back in 1982,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the idea to invite 6-6 Florida State really came about last week after Bowden announced that this year would be his last on the Seminole sidelines.

“Obviously the big piece of information that came out was when Coach Bowden announced that he was going to retire. At that point, with how the teams were stacked in the ACC, it became a possibility,” Murphy said. “Certainly some things had to happen.”

West Virginia became an appealing option for the Gator Bowl after the Mountaineers knocked off then-eighth ranked Pitt on the final play of the game in Morgantown.

“That put West Virginia right at the top of our list,” said Murphy. “We’ve got a long history with West Virginia. We know that they always show up and they’ve just been a great partner of ours. When they beat Pittsburgh I think that really catapulted them to the top of our list. That was a great win, and obviously another great win yesterday (against Rutgers). In the bowl business you love to have teams come in on a roll. That’s what we’ve got with West Virginia.”

It also got a school with a long history of selling tickets. Three of the top eight attended Gator Bowls involve West Virginia, including the bowl game record of 82,911 established in 1989 against Clemson.

Murphy said the bowl began to notice a surge in interest when a possible Florida State-West Virginia matchup was first being discussed last week.

“I don’t know for sure where it came from,” Murphy said. “It may be fans that were excited about the possibility of West Virginia coming to the game. It could be fans excited about the possibility of Florida State coming to the game. We expect now with the formal announcement today that we’re going to continue to see that demand.”

It is Murphy’s hope that the game will sell out this year as well. He is banking a lot of that on the fact that it will be the final game of Bobby Bowden’s long and successful coaching career.

“Whether you are a Florida State fan or not, you’ve got to respect everything Bobby Bowden has done. There isn’t going to be another Bobby Bowden in this world,” Murphy said. “People don’t last in the coaching world for 30 years-plus at one school. I think all around the country this is going to be a great event and a great celebration of a great coach, a great icon and a great ambassador of college football.”

Murphy also noted that the Gator Bowl’s television partner CBS was fully in favor of the matchup.

“Obviously your TV is a partner and they’re going to be involved in any decision that you make,” Murphy said. “I can tell you I think CBS is excited as we are here at the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl about this matchup.”

Murphy said plans are already in place to involve both schools in the celebration of Bowden’s coaching career.

“We will certainly do what we can to make this a special moment for everybody involved in college football,” Murphy said. “I think West Virginia will be excited to be a part of this. I think the West Virginia fans will be excited to be a part of this. I think fans from across the nation will turn out to see this.

“We are certainly going to make a big deal about this and hopefully, in a great way, honor a man that has had such a big impact on college football. It transcends teams and any sports fan is going to see, really, the end of an unbelievable era.”

This will be West Virginia’s sixth Gator Bowl appearance since 1982, and its fourth since joining the Big East Conference.

Tickets are currently on sale through the Mountaineer Ticket Office and can be purchased online by logging on to WVUGAME.com. Phone orders will be accepted beginning at 9 a.m. Monday morning by calling 1-800-WVU GAME.

In addition, information about various Alumni Association packages is available at http://wvusportstravel.com

-WVU-

ja/12/07/09