The University of Minnesota football team announced Thursday night that it has boycotted all football activities in protest of the school’s suspensions of 10 players in relation to a Title IX investigation.
Senior receiver Drew Wolitarsky said the boycott was a “day by day” matter, but did not rule out the possibility that it might extend to the Gophers’ Holiday Bowl game against Washington State on Dec. 27.
However, if the boycott continues, the Holiday Bowl will need to find a new team to play the Cougars, and according to multiple reports, including one from ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy, Northern Illinois of the MAC would be the next team in line for a bowl bid based on NCAA APR scores.
Northern Illinois traveled to San Diego, Calif. for its bowl game last season, when it lost to Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl, but it has never played in the Holiday Bowl.
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McMurphy wrote late Thursday night that Northern Illinois, which finished the regular season 5-7, would “likely” accept an invitation to play in the Holiday Bowl if a decision is reached within the next 48 hours, by Saturday night.
However, the NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee would have to officially approve the Huskies’ addition to the Holiday Bowl, should Minnesota decide not to play.
Northern Illinois would, however, go into the bowl game at a disadvantage. For one, it will have about a week to make the logistical arrangements necessary to get the entire football team down to San Diego. The Huskies held their graduation ceremonies last weekend, and some players have already left campus, McMurphy reported.
The Huskies would also have to face WSU on two weeks less practice time.
WSU coach Mike Leach told reporters after practice on Thursday that he will “ignore 100 percent” of Minnesota’s threat to boycott the bowl game.
“There’s always drama this time of year,” Leach said. “Historically, your best bet is to assume everybody is playing.”
The Holiday Bowl issued a statement from Executive Director Mark Neville Thursday night which said simply that bowl officials are monitoring the developing situation closely.