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Chippewas play Western Kentucky in Little Caesar’s Bowl on Dec. 26

Florida Atlantic wide receiver Cortez Gent catches a pass and attempts to carry it down field while CMU’s Tim Brazzel, left, and Vince Agnew, center, tackle him. (Matthew Stephens/File Photo)

After 8 p.m. Sunday, Central Michigan Athletics Director Dave Heeke was getting “anxious” with his football team not yet in a bowl game.

“It was coming down to the wire,” he said. “But I knew we had a good shot with our team this year, our program history and how good our conference is.”

At 6-6, CMU squeezed into a bowl game and will play Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit.

Western Kentucky finished the regular season 7-5 with an overtime win over Kentucky. The Hilltoppers lost three of their last four games in the Sun Belt Conference.

It will be the fourth trip for the Chippewas to the Motor City Bowl-Pizza Bowl since 2006.

“I’m excited, and I hope our fans are excited to go back to a bowl game in our backyard,” Heeke said. “It’s another step in the right direction for our program to rebuild.”

Northern Illinois will be the first team in the Mid-American Conference to play in a Bowl Championship Series bowl against Florida State in the Orange bowl. The Huskies will be without head coach Dave Doeren, who accepted the head coaching position at North Carolina State. CMU goes to NC State next year.

“Today was a landmark day for MAC football,” Heeke said. “We jumped that hurdle. It’s something we’re all striving to do; now its attainable. I hope to see us get that opportunity one day.”

Other notable bowl games include Michigan facing South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Years Day, and Michigan State plays Texas Christian University Dec. 29 in the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl.

Louisiana Tech is a bowl-eligible team not bowling. A 9-3 record wasn’t good enough in the Western Athletic Conference with non-conference wins over Illinois and Virginia. According to CBSsports.com, Louisiana Tech turned down an invitation to the Independence Bowl Saturday, thinking they could get a better game.

“I don’t know the details (of Louisiana Tech), a variety of things got reported,” Heeke said. “Northern Illinois was the big domino that fell that opened a lot of doors for us and a number of scenarios. Bottom line: I think the bowls like our team and our conference.”

The MAC will send seven teams to bowl games. Kent State, Ohio, Bowling Green, Ball State and Toledo were the others invited.

19 Comments

  1. “I’m excited, and I hope our fans are excited to go back to a bowl game in our backyard,” Heeke said. “It’s another step in the right direction for our program to rebuild.”…So a bowl bid is the only criteria to evaluate Enos and the program? Please see Purdue….bowl bid but still have a head coaching opening due to the program not headed in the right direction and not meeting standars and expectations. Fellow alumni, 6-6 with the schedule this year is awful. Fans at Kelly-Shorts are smarter than we are given credit for. Why does Heeke think that the attendance went down every home game this year? The team and product was not good. If the direction he talks about is bottom fedder in the MAC then that is where we are headed…….

    • Don’t be so uptight. Yeah, it’s easy to throw Enos under the bus and call for him to be canned, but is that really the right choice this early? On average, it takes coaches 3-4 years to really show what they can do, especially when you have to start over the way CMU had to after Jones left. And while Enos does not have the record fans would like to see, he IS showing improvement. A few rolls of the dice a different way and this team is looking at an 8 win season. I just think, as a sports enthusiast, that 3 years is too short to judge what a coach can do for a program, no matter where they are coaching at. We made a commitment to this guy, lets just see what he can do for one more year after coming off of a bowl game birth.

      • Nothing to do with being uptight….his overall product after 3 years is terrible. As others have noted, this was the year CMU played the weaker MAC schools. Look at the wins this season…….against teams with awful records. If we are to just base a program on wins then it is no wonder that schools schedule nothing but “cupcakes” for non-conference. I agree with Kevin…..with 35 bowls and 70 teams eligible, bowls are meaningless. The only reason they got invite to Little Caesars is because of location to Mt P……fans didn’t go to Kelly-Shorts this year(except MSU), they certainly are NOT going to go to Ford field and watch a team from KY…..12-24 overall (.333) and 8-16 (.333) in MAC play…..numbers don’t lie!

        • Okay well if you were the AD of any program, you would never be sucessful. That’s an obvious fact. Becuase you cannot, with the amount of talent and coaches central lost after the GMAC bowl,

        • Nobody is saying Enos is a saint here…. but he has had THREE freaking years. That is nothing in the college football world. ESPECIALLY when you take over a program that lost all of its best players and coaches after the GMAC bowl. If you cannot admit to the fact that Enos has made improvements from prior years, than you are an idiot. They made a bowl game, and won 3 more games than the prior year. Bitch about the competition all you want, but “numbers are numbers” and WINS are WINS. Give the guy a shot to show what he can do next season.

          • The combined record of the teams we beat was 14-45. We took advantage of a very soft schedule and lost every other game decidedly. Beating bad teams does not mean a coach is successful, especially when we struggled in some of the wins we did get (vs. SEMo, vs Eastern).

            I see no progress made as far as the direction the team is heading, especially with our defense set to regress even more after Addae and some others leave. The “numbers” you speak of are over-inflated. If a team played UMass every week for a season and went undefeated, it doesn’t mean that team is good for having a 12-0 record.

            Since the AD will not fire Enos this season, I hope Enos recognizes for his own sake that he needs a new D Coordinator to even have a chance of not being fired after next season.

      • Brian Cunningham says:

        “A few rolls of the dice” and Central would have lost to Eastern and Maimi. Defense has been horrid every year during the Enos era. You cannot deny that.

    • Chip 87 – First no one is happy with the record, so I don’t intend to confuse. However I’m happy with the bowl game. There are 50 teams or so that aren’t going. Better still out game is in late Dec. this gives out young guys one month of practice they wouldn’t have gotten. That’s like getting two spring balls. Second it can’t hurt recruiting. You seem to be down on all things Dan Enos but he has recruited well. On paper the class he’s signing now is outstanding. Go to one of the recruiting sites and see. Three its just good the guys get a bowl experience. As a former player who knows what it’s like to play on 2 and three loss teams and not get to go

    • Brian Cunningham says:

      You are right about the schedule and the Chips lost two home games to teams they could/should have beaten – Navy and the Broncos (with their starting QB Alex Carder unable to play). Navy had a weak schedule and lost to Troy.

  2. This proves bowls are completely meaningless these days. I remember when CMU had to have a great season to make it to Ford Field. Just 5 or 6 years back you’d see at most 2 teams from the MAC make it to a bowl, and it’s definitely not because the talent level has gone up in the conference.

    • Brian Cunningham says:

      There are two factors involved. 1) the MAC is a stronger conference than it was 5-6 years ago. The majority of MAC teams won bowl games last year and Western gave Purdue a fight. MAC teams are beating more prestigious conference teams with greater regularity. NIU, Toledo, Kent State, Ball State, Ohio and Bowling Green are legit bowl picks with 70 slots available. 2) Ohio State and Penn State are banned opening up two slots. Teams in the Big East and C-USA underperformed leaving more open slots. The Chips were very lucky’ in 2012 (weak opponents and more slots for mid-majors); let’s hope they make the most of it.

  3. Is a bowl game really that exciting with a 6-6 record? Seems like everyone gets a trophy these days.

  4. Brian Cunningham says:

    The Chips have been extremely lucky in 2012. They played each of the bottom four teams in the MAC East (except Buffalo) and a very weak Iowa team. Ohio State and Penn State are banned from bowls and the Chips were the 70th and last team selected. Thank former coach Butch Jones because if his Cincinnati team didn’t beat Connecticut Saturday, the Chips wouldn’t be going to any bowls. That said, Go Chips. Make the university and the MAC proud of you. And please wear the school colors – maroon and gold – rather that those idiotic new black uniforms.

  5. Lets just say whats obvious if you read the news reports coming out late Sunday. La Tech’s COMPLETELY incapable AD (compared to our marginally incapable AD) is the only reason CMU got a bowl bid. They are 9-3 and asked for a time extension on a bid response. The bowl told them “no” and chose a different team (Ohio). This set off a chain reaction which ended up allowing one lesser team to get a bid. Analysts agree that CMU received this “gift” since we had the weakest schedule and record combination of any eligible team (aside from Georgia Tech which is 6-7 and almost screwed us last week with their eligibility waiver). CMU’s team drastically underachieved this year. Enos is part of the problem. Heeke is part of the problem. Both need to be dismissed, regardless of the bowl outcome. A “top” recruiting class on paper is nice, but results on the field and butts in the seats at Kelly Shorts would be better. Remember Ron Zook at Illinois? He had year after year of “top” recruiting classes on paper and they stunk year after year too (except for one trip to the rose bowl). It’s just not added up for Enos as a head coach. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and will have a great career as a position coach or coordinator with another program. Heck, maybe in another 5-6 years someone might give him a shot to be a head coach again (far far away from here, with a system he can walk in to). 3 years is the standard in College football. The team should be in a better position than a diluted 6-6 record against the bottom of the barrel in terms of competition. Hope got fired at Purdue with the same record. Embre is out at Colorado after only two years, and he’s an Alum!! O’Brien got canned at NC State and they’re 7-5 and beat FSU who’s playing in a BCS bowl! Wake up Heeke, and Ross! Let’s turn this program around with new leadership with a proven track record of success. THATS what the program needs right now, a coach who can COACH, not just recruit and say the right things.

  6. The benchmark I set to support retaining Enos was at least 6 wins and a bowl bid. He met that standard, albeit with a very easy schedule and some help from Louisiana Tech. Because of this, Enos deserves a chance to improve on this year and should be our head coach next season.

    That said, some changes do need to be made, especially at the Defensive Coordinator position. Pathetic year on defense for the Chips, even with all the talent we have.

    Funnily enough, if anyone has a rooted interest in seeing us can Enos, it’s MSU fans. A lot of them are really hoping he gets fired here and can go back to East Lansing and run Dantonio’s offense.

  7. Jeff Solomon says:

    I wish there were 50 bowls and 100 teams got in. If you’re not in a BCS bowl does it really matter anyway? December sucks for sports so I’ll watch almost all of these bowl games. Don’t belly-ache about CMU getting into a bowl. Its a great excuse to get wasted! At least our program is not as weak as LA Tech. Them fools blew it.

  8. I know three years seems like a short time to turn around a rebuilding program and in general I would agree with that sentiment. However, I would expect to see improvement year to year, even with a rebuilding team. If Enos and company had won only 3 games again this year do you really think we’d even be having this discussion? The only thing that saved Enos’ job this season is a weak schedule, mediocre record and the large number of bowl games.

  9. Enos is just awful. Everyone beaming with optimism need only look at the record from this year, and the last two seasons. CMU played the bottom of the MAC and a bunch of patty-cake, powder-puff games to get to the whoa-my-stars six wins. He’s a terrible head coach that brought a tradition of mediocrity to the program and I will not support the program until he’s gone. Do not be impressed by this bowl appearance – we got in on the coattails, hard work and REAL coaching by the successful MAC programs. Had NIU or Kent dropped out of the top 25, Enos wouldn’t be preparing to lose another bowl game.

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