“I even saw a couple false reports and I’m like, ‘this can’t be happening,'” Jones said, recalling his Sunday afternoon as he, like everybody else, waited for UT’s eventual selection into the TaxSlayer Bowl. “And it just goes to show you that you deal with the facts and sometimes you may think you really know and you don’t know. So those players walked into that room really not knowing what was coming, just like myself, up until about 5:20. I was believing and hearing the same things everyone else does.”
There was no formal selection show for all of the bowls outside of the playoffs, Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta Bowls this year. While women’s basketball played on the SEC Network (hint, hint SEC: do some form of selection show next year), bowl selections leaked out via reports, official Twitter accounts and press releases.
Depending on who you asked and at what point in the day it was, the Vols were reportedly heading to the Music City Bowl, the Belk Bowl or, perhaps most popularly, the Liberty Bowl to take on West Virginia.
Multiple outlets confirmed the Vols’ selection to the Liberty Bowl even before the Citrus Bowl, which gets the first pick of SEC teams after the playoffs and the New Year’s Six Bowls, had made its selection. Some fans rushed to purchase tickets for the Liberty Bowl. Even the NCAA itself got in on the action, publishing on its official website that the Vols would be heading to Memphis to face the Mountaineers.
The official NCAA website has posted Tennessee vs. West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. But is that official enough? pic.twitter.com/x2jZo5OQzc
— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) December 7, 2014
That made it all the more surprising for fans when the Vols were eventually selected by the event formerly known as the Gator Bowl – a bowl that hadn’t been on too many people’s radars in weeks leading up to the selection.
It also made it a surprise to the players themselves. Jones credited (or blamed) the media and the swirling of false reports for that.
“It was a shock because they listen to you guys [the media],” Jones said. “You know, with the invention of Twitter and all these fictitious websites (side note: what’s a fictitious website?) and erroneous things that are out there, you can’t help but hear it.”
“The thing is we heard a lot of different rumors from a lot of different bowl games,” added senior defensive tackle Jordan Williams, who is one of 13 Vols who will be returning to their home state for the Jan. 2 matchup against Iowa.
That made it all the better for Williams, the seniors and the entire team to hear the truly official announcement – a January bowl in a destination better than many envisioned throughout this process.
“It was wild,” Williams said. “It was pure excitement. We really appreciate the Gator [TaxSlayer] Bowl giving us that bid and it was a great, great time.”