Freedom Bowl officials, unsuccessful in attempts to secure a Los Angeles team to play in the game, have arranged a meeting between Arizona State and Air Force, sources from both schools and the Freedom Bowl said Sunday.
Last year, a record crowd of 51,214 turned out to see UCLA defeat Brigham Young, 31-10, in the Freedom Bowl in Anaheim Stadium, and bowl officials were said to be pursuing USC this year.
But the Trojans reportedly have agreed to play in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tex., Dec. 25 if they do not beat UCLA next Saturday. The winner of that game earns a berth in the Rose Bowl. UCLA reportedly has agreed to play in the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu on Dec. 25 if the Bruins lose to USC.
Unable to secure a local team, Freedom Bowl officials reached agreement with Air Force (8-3) and Arizona State (6-4) for the Dec. 30 game, marking the third time in the bowl's four-year history that a Pacific 10 team has been selected. Washington played Colorado in 1985.
Although bowl and school officials will not publicly confirm agreements until bids officially are extended next Saturday afternoon, many bowl matchups already have been decided.
"In the event that we do have Arizona State play Air Force in our bowl, we'd be very pleased," said Kirk Hendrix, associate executive director of the Freedom Bowl. "Both of those teams have been in our top six all year long. We followed nearly every game and felt if we could secure either or both, that would give us a fine game."
Arizona State, which was upset by California Saturday, 38-20, also has lost to Nebraska, Washington and UCLA.
"We have a lot of respect for what the Freedom Bowl has done with that game," said Charles S. Harris, Arizona State athletic director. "We've got an off week and then one game to go (against Arizona), and we'll certainly be interested in talking to the Freedom Bowl."
It will be the second straight year the defending Rose Bowl champion has played in the Freedom Bowl. Arizona State defeated Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl.
Air Force, a wishbone team, lost its opener against Wyoming but had five straight victories after quarterback Dee Dowis--now the team's leading rusher--took over in the second game. The Falcons also have lost to Notre Dame and Brigham Young.
"We had an indication that we will probably have an opportunity to go to the Freedom Bowl and were ecstatic," said John Clune, Air Force athletic director.
USC reportedly lost interest in the Freedom Bowl for lack of what it considered a suitable opponent. Iowa, which defeated Texas in the inaugural Freedom Bowl in 1984, was in demand, but reportedly has opted for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego Dec. 30 against the winner of the Western Athletic Conference. The Holiday Bowl payoff is $750,000, compared to the Freedom Bowl's minimum of $500,000. The Sun Bowl pays $850,000.