Middle Tennessee State learned the hard way Sunday that there is a difference between being bowl-eligible and actually going to a bowl.
With an 8-4 record and a notable victory over Georgia Tech, the Blue Raiders did not get an invitation to any of the 35 postseason contests, which begin Dec. 15 and continue through the BCS title contest on Jan. 7.
“This is devastating for those seniors and our entire team,” coach Rick Stockstill said in a statement released by the athletics department. "They did what they had to do on the football field and were not rewarded.
“It was very tough facing my team and telling them their season was over. We had a great year and we will not let the momentum of our 8-4 season be derailed by other people's decisions that I don't agree with.”
MTSU had chance to win the Sun Belt Conference championship right up to the final game of the season, which was Saturday. It lost that one 45-0 to Arkansas State, which won the title outright and got a bid to the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
The Blue Raiders, who won just two games a year ago, finished tied for second with Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe, both of which also received bowl bids. Fifth-place Western Kentucky (7-5) became the fourth Sun Belt team in the postseason when it accepted an invitation from the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
MTSU defeated WKU 34-29 on Nov. 1, a little more than a month after a 49-28 rout of Georgia Tech, which played in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Saturday.
School officials believed that was more than enough for the program to make its third bowl appearance in four seasons.
"I am so proud of this football team and what they have accomplished this season and the turnaround they have made," director of athletics Chris Massaro said. "This incredibly frustrating turn of events won't define us or our season. I think it is clear that the bowl system needs improvement and should be better than this. I believe in this football team, the momentum we have built, and the future is bright.”