It's not the way the Blue Raider nation expected to end its season - to get snubbed from a postseason bowl game.
The Middle Tennessee State University football team finished with an 8-4 record and in second place in the Sun Belt Conference.
With those kinds of numbers, more than just the football team expected to go to a bowl game later this month.
MTSU freshman Elisabeth Weeks has spent many game days cheering on the Blue Raiders. As the bowl announcements grew near, she and other band members eagerly awaited.
"We were actually counting down the days, waiting to find out what bowl game we were going to," Weeks said.
Sunday, that excitement quickly turned to disappointment.
"We were all really excited about the bowl game, getting to go. I mean, I'm a freshman, so I've never been and I was really excited," Weeks said.
MTSU head football coach Rick Stockstill broke the news to his team that they were not selected with tears in his eyes.
"I hurt more for them then I hurt for me and our coaches, but it's just a very, very disappointing decision and I don't understand it," Stockstill said.
Stockstill said he has heard explanations on why Western Kentucky University is going to a bowl game instead of MTSU, but those still leave him and others to wonder if a recent announcement that MTSU will move to Conference USA caused the Blue Raiders to miss out on a bowl appearance this year.
"When you look at the two teams, us and Western Kentucky, and all the stats, there's no reason. So, you just don't know, you know, the bottom line of why they're going and not us," Stockstill said.
School leaders say they break even financially on trips to a bowl game, but what will be missed most is the chance to get the school's name into the national spotlight.
"You're in the bowl scroll on ESPN, and then you're in every newspaper in the country when they publish all the bowl grids, and those kind of things. Where we're going to be really hurt by this is the exposure a bowl game generates," said MTSU Athletics Director Chris Massaro.
It's a loss many Blue Raiders will not soon forget, which Stockstill says will serve as some motivation when it comes to wins on the scoreboard next season.
MTSU had its best chance of going to the Little Caesars Bowl on Dec. 26 in Detroit. Instead, WKU will make its first-ever bowl appearance by facing Central Michigan.
Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson responded Monday to speculation that MTSU's move to Conference USA cost it a bowl bid.
"At no point in time was that ever part of any conversation between Sun Belt officials and a representative of a bowl game," Benson said in a statement. "The bowl games selected the teams that they most wanted."
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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