History with Sugar Bowl leads to Virginia Tech's BCS at-large bid and game against Michigan

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When Virginia Tech defeated Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl, Frank Beamer cautioned Hokies faithful not to expect similar success every year.

"I think we've got a chance to be a top program year in and year out," he said. "But every year certainly isn't going to be like this."

Well, how about every other year, Coach?

For the eighth time in 17 years, Virginia Tech is bound for a marquee postseason destination. But this one is oh-so-different.

It is unexpected, makes ACC history, helps rival Virginia and comes less than 24 hours after the Hokies' worst performance of the season.

When Clemson throttled Tech 38-10 in Saturday's ACC championship game, the Hokies (11-2) seemed destined for the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve in Atlanta. An at-large Bowl Championship Series invite?

Yes, Houston's loss in the Conference USA championship game helped Tech's cause. And yes, perhaps Texas Christian wouldn't place high enough in the BCS standings to earn an automatic bid.

Still, after a 28-point defeat, the Hokies' chances were discounted by most.

But bowl selections never have hinged solely on performance. They're about relationships, reputations and fannies in the seats.

And there the Sugar Bowl and Virginia Tech have a history. Hence, the New Orleans-based game bypassed higher-ranked Boise State and Kansas State and chose the Hokies to play Michigan on Jan. 3.

Virginia Tech has been on the flip side. In 2000, the 10-1 Hokies, runner-up to Miami in the Big East, were fifth in the BCS standings but relegated to the Gator Bowl when the Fiesta Bowl took No. 11 Notre Dame instead.

When the news of Tech's Sugar Bowl invite leaked early Sunday evening, national media immediately carped about Tech's credentials. But while Boise State and Kansas State, Nos. 7 and 8 in the BCS standings, finished ahead of the No. 11 Hokies, they could not match Tech's fan base and nearly two decades of national prominence.

During a teleconference, I asked Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan how important the Hokies' loyal fans were to the game's decision.

"Extremely important," he said.

Welcome to the twisted world of postseason football at the highest levels.

Also invaluable to Tech: Beamer's iconic status and the Hokies' three previous Sugar Bowl appearances: the Texas victory, a loss to Florida State in the 1999 national title game and a defeat to undefeated Auburn in the 2004 season.

On each occasion, Tech performed, and traveled, well.

"I think Virginia Tech has proven over the years the caliber of football team that they are," Hoolahan said when Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel asked about the Hokies' tame schedule.

Also, Hoolahan described Beamer as "a very good friend throughout the years."

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