As expected, for the third time in four years, the Michigan football team will be spending New Year”s Day in central Florida. Yesterday, the Wolverines accepted a bid to play in the 2002 Florida Citrus Bowl at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1 against a Southeastern Conference team to be named later.

Paul Wong
University Vice President for Medical Affairs Gil Omenn speaks yesterday during a panel discussion about bioterrorism at the School of Public Health.<br><br>ALEX HOWBERT/Daily

“I look forward to getting back into football and I look forward to playing an outstanding team from the SEC conference,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

After Michigan lost its Bowl Championship Series berth and a share of the Big Ten conference title with a loss to Ohio State last Saturday, the Citrus Bowl extended an offer to the Wolverines after a vote by the Citrus Bowl committee yesterday.

“The vote was a very strong Michigan vote,” Citrus Bowl president Bill Dymond said in a teleconference yesterday.

Ohio State and Purdue were also in the running to be the Big Ten representative. Traditionally, the Citrus Bowl has taken the highest-ranked team possible and it is no different this season. The Buckeyes will attend the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

Michigan has played in the Citrus Bowl two of the past three seasons. Last season, Michigan defeated Auburn, 31-28 and in 1999, the Wolverines knocked off Arkansas 45-31.

The tie-ins that the Big Ten has with its bowl games produces matchups that would rarely occur during the regular season, namely Big Ten teams facing SEC teams.

“The tie-ins with the bowls have been very positive in terms of the Big Ten teams against the SEC teams,” Carr said. “Certainly (SEC teams) not going come up here in the cold weather and they”re not going come up here unless we go down there.”

The Citrus Bowl will not make a decision on the Wolverines” opponent until after this Saturday, the last game of the regular season for the SEC. In that final weekend, Florida faces Tennessee and Auburn faces Louisiana State to decide the SEC championship game matchup for Dec. 8.

Possible opponents for the Wolverines include Florida, Georgia, Louisiana State, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Michigan is an attractive team for the Citrus Bowl as it has a strong national following as well as strong regional support in the state of Florida. Last season, Michigan sold out its allotted 11,000 tickets.

Michigan “has terrific appeal in terms of the national television media. ABC is certainly happy with our selection of Michigan for the game,” Dymond said. “They have great fans who love to come down to Florida and have traveled well in the past.”

In addition, the Wolverines have a strong alumni base in the state of Florida.

“If we had to pick one bowl in one geographic area that we are very strong outside of southern California it would probably be central Florida,” Athletic Director Bill Martin said.

Michigan missed out on the big BCS payday of $10 million, but the Citrus Bowl will still give Michigan upwards of $4 million to play in the bowl. The money made through bowl games is shared by each of the Big Ten”s 11 teams.

Fans that would like to purchase tickets can contact the Michigan ticket office at (734) 764-0247 or can purchase tickets online at http://www.mgoblue.com. Tickets are $60 each and are on sale now.

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