No. 18 Louisville, Miami in Russell Athletic Bowl
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Russell Athletic Bowl might have sort of a Miami celebration feel to it.
After two years of self-imposed bowl exile during an NCAA investigation, Miami will play in its first game since 2010 when it meets No. 18 Louisville in the Dec. 28 matchup at Orlando’s Florida Citrus Bowl.
The game is also a Miami reunion for Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. A native of the South Florida city, he will be lined up against the school he grew up watching and initially committed to coming out of high school.
But most importantly, it will be a chance for Bridgewater and Louisville (11-1) to put a happy stamp on a season that fell short of the school’s second straight BCS appearance. The Cardinals, coming off a Sugar Bowl win, lost that chance after blowing a 21-point lead in their lone loss of the year to BCS-bound UCF back in October.
The setback also dealt a big blow to Bridgewater’s Heisman Trophy campaign. But with about 25 players on Louisville’s roster with Florida ties, Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said it’s nice to give them a homecoming.
“We’re always trying to raise expectations and always trying to lift the profile of Louisville,” Strong said. “With us ending the season against this opponent, it will give a lot of viewers that are watching the opportunity to see what type of team we have.”
The Hurricanes (9-3) won their first seven games of the season and rose as high as No. 7 in The Associated Press rankings before losing three in a row to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke.
The disappointments this season have done little to diminish Miami’s return to the bowl season, though, after sitting out back-to-back seasons in 2011 and 2012 because of the NCAA investigation centered on the actions of Nevin Shapiro, a former booster who was also running a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Miami will also be getting a preview of a future conference foe, with Louisville joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports next season. Miami is scheduled to visit Louisville for the first time sometime in 2014.
Hurricanes coach Al Golden, who is making his first bowl appearance since taking over at Miami, was recruiting Sunday night and was unavailable comment. He played in the inaugural Russell Athletic Bowl in 1990, then known as the Blockbuster Bowl, as a linebacker with Penn State.
While Golden and administrators at Miami have moved beyond the NCAA probe, it does coincidentally also have ties to Louisville.
Shapiro plied dozens of recruits, coaches and players with impermissible benefits. Among those who the NCAA said were tainted by Shapiro: Bridgewater, and Cardinals assistant coach Clint Hurtt. Hurtt played and coached at Miami.
Bridgewater, the NCAA said in the notice of allegations reviewed by The Associated Press, watched a Hurricanes game in November 2008 from Shapiro’s suite and was given complimentary food and drinks. Bridgewater also was entertained by a former Miami staff member and received Hurricanes apparel, the NCAA alleged.
Hurtt, the NCAA said, violated NCAA rules by not disclosing elements of his relationship with Shapiro, and also broke rules by accepting a loan from the former booster who’s now serving a 20-year prison term.
As for this game, it could be a high-scoring affair with Bridgewater matched up with another Miami native in Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris.
Bridgewater threw for more than 3,500 yards this season with 28 touchdowns. Morris threw for nearly 2,900 yards and had 21 touchdowns.
“It’d be a great challenge and a great headline for a lot of people,” Morris told The Associated Press in recent days, as speculation centered on a Miami-Louisville matchup. “Teddy’s a great quarterback. It’d be a great challenge ... a lot of people would focus on that, two quarterbacks from Miami going at it.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Fla. contributed to this report.
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