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Published: Thursday, 11/16/2000

Chryst makes a pitch for Rockets

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Rick Chryst made his pitch to officials from the Silicon Valley Football Classic yesterday in San Jose, Calif.

Chryst, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, delivered a strike during the two-hour meeting, according to Ken Berry Sr., director of operations for the first-year bowl game.

Still, that doesn't mean the University of Toledo football team won't strike out when bowl bids officially are extended Dec. 3.

Chryst met with Berry and Chuck Shelton, executive director for the Silicon Valley bowl, which will be played Dec. 31 at San Jose State University's Spartan Stadium. Each team will receive a $1.2 million payout.

“The meeting was awesome,” Berry said. “Rick impressed the heck out of coach (Shelton) and myself. He is an awesome commissioner who probably helped turn the table in Toledo's favor.

“He was really pumping up Toledo, pumping up the MAC, and his approach was impressive. I am very excited about the possibility of us maybe getting Toledo.”

Berry said he was in the process of trying to work out travel arrangements to attend the Rockets' final home game Wednesday night against Bowling Green at the Glass Bowl.

Toledo will carry a 9-1 record into that game, which starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.

Chryst said last night that he pitched Toledo, Western Michigan and Marshall to the Silicon Valley bowl folks.

“My sense is that they seemed to be favoring Toledo” he said. “We'll see how that shakes out. There's still a lot of football left to be played.”

The Rockets and Syracuse (5-4) appear to be among the early frontrunners for an at-large bid to the Silicon Valley game, provided the Mountain West Conference can't produce a third-place, bowl eligible team to battle the Western Athletic Conference runner-up.

UNLV (5-5) needs to win its final two games, both on the road, to be bowl eligible and qualify as the third-place team. It's unlikely that will happen.

Toledo already is eligible for bowl consideration. Syracuse must win one of its final two games against Miami (Fla.) or Rutgers to be bowl eligible. It's also possible that a handful of other teams could become bowl eligible in the next few weeks and sneak into the mix as potential at-large teams for the Silicon Valley bowl.

“It's a real positive thing for the conference, having Rick out there promoting us,” said Pete Liske, Toledo's director of athletics. “He's doing a heckuva job trying to get us positioned for a bowl game. We appreciate it.”

The MAC has an automatic bid to the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 27 at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., but Toledo is a long shot to advance to the game against the fourth-place finisher from Conference USA. Marshall and Western Michigan likely will battle for the right to represent the MAC in that game.

Chryst met with officials from the Las Vegas Bowl on Tuesday. That's the only postseason game that currently has an official opening for an at-large team. The Mountain West runner-up will provide the opposition for the Dec. 21 game.

The Motor City Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl both pay the NCAA-minimum of $750,000 per team.

“Both days were very productive from a conference standpoint,” Chryst said. “We have never had two MAC teams in bowl games before. I might still be saying the same thing a year from now.

“It's challenging, but it's not discouraging. I'm really proud to represent our schools.”

Sammy Villegas, a 6-6, 195-pound guard from Lima Senior High School, has signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Toledo men's basketball team next season.

Villegas, who moved to the United States last year from Catalina, Puerto Rico, is rated the fourth-best wing guard in Ohio by Prep Spotlight Magazine.

“Sammy is going to be a real good player for us,” coach Stan Joplin said. “He possesses a lot of versatility and should be able to play two or three positions. We think he has a lot of upside.”

Villegas joins sophomore Ricardo Thomas in the Rockets' 2000-01 recruiting class. Thomas is sitting out this season after transferring from Eastern Kentucky.



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