The No. 21 Wolfpack (10-3) will play either the winner of thePittsburgh-West Virginia game this weekend or Notre Dame. N.C.State lost to the Panthers 34-19 in last year's Tangerine Bowl.
The Wolfpack were likely ticketed for the Peach Bowl, but a 17-7win over ACC champion Florida State on Saturday upped their stockin the eyes of Gator Bowl officials.
After a series of meetings Monday, the Gator Bowl decided not towait to pick among N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia and invitedthe Wolfpack to the New Year's Day game instead of the Terrapins orCavaliers - two teams that beat N.C. State a few weeks ago - andwho have games left this weekend.
"Most of you people don't realize how important that win overFlorida State was," Amato said.
The Gator Bowl will give Amato another opportunity to recruit inFlorida, a state where the Wolfpack coach has lured some top talentto Raleigh. In his three seasons, N.C. State's bowl games will havebeen in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville.
N.C. State's last trip to the Gator Bowl was in 1992, a 27-10loss to Florida.
"It's another way of getting free advertising for youruniversity in a state that has a lot of numbers," Amato said. "Itgives us exposure for seven or eight days."
The New Year's Day game also gives his rising program morecredibility in recruiting circles.
"It's all part of building a program," Amato said. "It's allpart of getting one step closer to the ultimate. It's all part ofbeing able to walk into a young man's home and say, `Look at whatwe've done since we've been here and every time it's a little bitbetter.'
"It makes things a little easier because they know you're doingsomething right. We still have a way to go, but if we can continueto have senior classes like this senior class was this year, we'llbe in a bowl forever and ever."
Some of the Wolfpack seniors were surprised by the pick, sayingthey were chanting `A.T.L., A.T.L.' in the locker room after beatingthe Seminoles, thinking they were headed to the Peach Bowl inAtlanta.
"This is a great honor for our team," linebacker DantonioBurnette said. "A lot of teams don't have a chance to play anextra game."
Amato and athletic director Lee Fowler made a visit to TangerineBowl officials last year to lobby for a bid, but no such exchangetook place this year between N.C. State officials and the GatorBowl.
In the end, the Gator Bowl made the early selection because itbelieved N.C. State was the most attractive team to select.
"We're 15 points away from being undefeated," Amato said."Don't lose sight of that."
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