SAN DIEGO — Iowa, which defeated San Diego State in the final seconds in last season's Holiday Bowl, will return to this season's bowl, sources familiar with the bowl pairing said Sunday.
Iowa (8-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big 10) will meet the Western Athletic Conference champion in the game scheduled for Dec. 30 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Wyoming (8-2 overall, 6-0 WAC) can clinch its first Holiday Bowl appearance by winning one of its two remaining games. Wyoming will play at Texas El Paso Saturday and at Hawaii Nov. 28.
John Reid, the Holiday Bowl executive director, said he cannot comment on team selection until Saturday, when bowl bids can be made official under a National Collegiate Athletic Assn. rule. George Wine, Iowa sports information director, said the school would have no comment.
But several sources confirmed Iowa's appearance.
The selection of Iowa ended a flurry of activity over the weekend. Holiday Bowl officials were among several groups interested in the Hawkeyes, sources said.
The Freedom Bowl Dec. 30 in Anaheim Stadium and the Liberty Bowl Dec. 29 in Memphis, Tenn., were two of the other bowls pursuing Iowa.
Last season, in one of the most exciting finishes in the bowl's nine-year history, Iowa edged SDSU, 39-38, on a 41-yard field goal with four seconds to play.
The Holiday Bowl, with its payout of $750,000, falls between the Liberty Bowl at $1 million and the Freedom Bowl at about $500,000. But it has a national television contract with ESPN.
Holiday Bowl and ESPN officials have said all along that they prefer a Big 10 team as an at-large opponent. But the number of available teams dwindled quickly Saturday when Indiana apparently committed to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and Michigan reportedly opted for the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Both games will be played Jan. 2. That left Iowa as the most attractive draw.
The Hawkeyes defeated Ohio State, 29-27, Saturday for their fourth consecutive victory. In that streak, they also have beaten Purdue, Indiana and Northwestern. But their chances for a Big 10 title were dashed by losses to Michigan State, 19-14, and Michigan, 37-10.
The loss to Michigan was the only defeat in seven games since junior Chuck Hartlieb won a three-way contest for the quarterback position. Hartlieb has thrown for 2,527 yards and 17 touchdowns, including a Big 10 record seven against Northwestern.
This would be the Hawkeyes' seventh consecutive bowl game under Coach Hayden Fry, who is in his ninth season at Iowa.
Iowa's decision to play in the Holiday Bowl left the Liberty Bowl with a pairing of Georgia and Arkansas and the Freedom Bowl with a matchup between Arizona State and Air Force, sources said.
The selection of Air Force assured the WAC of two teams in postseason play, but the conference could get a third bowl representative for the first time in its history.
If Wyoming earns the conference Holiday Bowl berth and Brigham Young (7-3, 6-1) finishes strong, sources said, Brigham Young likely will be invited to the All-American Bowl Dec. 22 in Birmingham, Ala.
BYU still has an outside chance at its eighth Holiday Bowl appearance. But that would require Wyoming to lose its two remaining games and BYU to win its games, against Utah Saturday and against Colorado State Dec. 5 in Melbourne, Australia.