Posted on December 5, 2011 at 9:01 PM
Tuesday, Dec 6 at 11:30 AM
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The president of the TicketCity Bowl said the child sex abuse scandal involving a former Penn State assistant coach didn't factor into organizers' deliberations to select the Nittany Lions for the Jan. 2 game.
Bowl organizers focused on the positives including Penn State's tradition-rich legacy, Tom Starr said. The game to be played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas will be the school's 44th postseason appearance — but the first without Joe Paterno as head coach since the 1962 Gator Bowl, 17-7 loss to Florida.
Penn State trustees fired Paterno on Nov. 9 amid mounting pressure that school leaders should have done more to prevent the allegations of abuse and the charges against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
"I can honestly say that we didn't even think about that," Starr said in a phone interview Monday with The Associated Press. "We just looked at all the positive sides — a great school, great legacy, players that deserve the reward."
Authorities have said Paterno is not a target of the investigation. Sandusky, who maintains he is innocent, is next scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 13.
Penn State (9-3, 6-2) finished tied with Wisconsin in the Big Ten Leaders Division, but lost to the Badgers 45-7 on Nov. 26 for a chance to go to the inaugural conference title game.
The TicketCity Bowl had the seventh pick of Big Ten teams among bowl games with conference tie-ins, after the BCS games. Iowa (7-5), along with Northwestern and Ohio State, which each finished 6-6, were chosen ahead of Penn State.
It set up a relatively high-profile matchup for the TicketCity between the 24th-ranked Nittany Lions and No. 20 Houston (12-1) with star quarterback Case Keenum. The Cougars fell from a potential Bowl Championship Series berth to the TicketCity after getting upset 49-28 by Southern Mississippi on Saturday in the Conference USA title game.
"We knew when we had a chance to get Penn State again, we said, 'Let's try to get a good opponent.' Then it doesn't matter who picks second or who picks fourth," Starr said. "I just wanted to put the best matchup together."
Paterno won a record 24 bowl games in 37 appearances over 46 seasons. Longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who took over as interim coach after Paterno's dismissal, has voiced interest in keeping the job on a permanent basis.
A six-person committee has spoken almost daily in the search for a replacement. School officials haven't ruled out internal candidates, and president Rodney Erickson has said it will be a wide-open search.
One high-profile name rumored to be a potential replacement, former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, told USA Today on Monday that he was not a candidate for the job. Dungy, now an NFL analyst for NBC, said he's focused on being able to watch his son, freshman Eric Dungy, play receiver at Oregon.
A message for Dungy from the AP seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday night.