Orange Bowl officials will announce this afternoon that seventh-ranked Maryland will play in the Jan. 2 game in Miami, sources said.
Maryland, which moved up to No. 10 in the Bowl Championship Series standings yesterday, is one of two teams that will be assigned to BCS bowls today. Big Ten champion Illinois is expected to receive a bid to the Sugar Bowl, to be played Jan. 1 in New Orleans.
The bowls notified both schools yesterday, though neither Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow nor football coach Ralph Friedgen was available to comment last night.
The Orange Bowl pays out about $12.5 million to each team, though Maryland's sum will be shared with the eight other schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It's unlikely that the ACC champion Terps (10-1) will discover their opponent before this weekend's Southeastern Conference championship game between No. 2 Tennessee and No. 21 Louisiana State in Atlanta.
No. 6 Florida, upset by Tennessee at home last weekend, appears to be the Orange Bowl's choice to face Maryland. But an LSU win this weekend could make the bowl choose between a team that would promise solid attendance (Florida) and a team that defeated the Gators (Tennessee).
The Terps earned a berth in the BCS by winning the school's first ACC championship since 1985. Since the team's season ended Nov. 17, its players and coaches have been working out and recruiting while awaiting word on a bowl destination.
All along, the Orange Bowl has been the top choice for Maryland, as it likely would offer its fans the best chance to travel to the game.
"We've expressed a strong interest in the Orange Bowl to the executive director on several occasions," Yow said last weekend. "We would also be proud to go to the Sugar Bowl. We're in a win-win situation."
At one point it was thought that Maryland could end up elsewhere if Florida had won the SEC but not made it into the national title game, leaving it up to the Sugar Bowl to exchange the Gators for the Terps.
But after Thanksgiving weekend, when upsets of other teams sent Florida to No. 2 in last week's BCS poll, the Orange Bowl had included Maryland in most of its scenarios.
"There's a very small possibility that Maryland would not be playing in the Orange Bowl," the bowl's CEO, Keith Tribble, said last week.
Tennessee, which last visited the bowl in 1998, was one possible opponent as the second team from the SEC, but so was Texas, which was eliminated from consideration after its loss to Colorado in last weekend's Big 12 championship game.
NOTES: Maryland players E.J. Henderson, Bruce Perry, Melvin Fowler, Tony Jackson, Todd Wike, Tony Okanlawon, Brooks Barnard and Matt Crawford attended the ACC Awards banquet in Atlanta last night along with Friedgen.
Six of the players earned All-ACC honors, while Crawford picked up this year's Brian Piccolo Award as the league's most courageous player. Friedgen was honored as Coach of the Year, while Henderson was named Player of the Year and Perry named Offensive Player of the Year.
The Terps, who had nine recruits in for visits last weekend and intend to bring in another group this weekend, will begin bowl practice on Saturday. That will continue - with minor interruptions because of final exams - until the team breaks for winter holidays Dec. 23. The team is tentatively scheduled to arrive in Miami on Dec. 26.
Date: Jan. 2
Site: Pro Player Stadium, Miami
Kickoff: 8 p.m.
TV: ABC (chs. 2, 7)