UCLA is penciled in on most lists as the Pac-10's Rose Bowl entry, and that has left UCLA very much out of the game of Bowl Game, Bowl Game, Who's in What Bowl Game.
UCLA Athletic Director Pete Dalis said that he got a lot more attention from bowl game representatives in 1983, when the Bruins started 0-3-1, than he's had this year. His phone has not been ringing with offers for his No. 5-ranked, once-defeated football team.
"Not too many of them want to wait to see if we'll be available," Dalis said. "They want to know for sure they have someone lined up before Nov. 21 (the day bids can be officially be extended). They don't want to be left out in the cold any more than we do."
As of Sunday morning, the Bruins need not fear being left out in the cold. If they should lose to USC next Saturday, and lose their chance to play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, UCLA will play in the Aloha Bowl in nice, warm Honolulu on Christmas Day.
The Aloha Bowl has a backup plan, too. If UCLA goes to the Rose Bowl, the Aloha Bowl gets Washington.
That would give the Pac-10 four bowl teams (with USC in the Sun Bowl and Arizona State in the Freedom Bowl.)
Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen, who spent Sunday morning on a series of conference calls getting all those gentlemen's agreements lined up, considers that a "peachy-keen" plan. "Well, maybe that's not the best choice of words, since we're not in the Peach Bowl," he said. "I think it's a terrific setup. The Freedom Bowl (in Anaheim) is important to us, as a conference, and the Aloha has always been a good friend. The Sun Bowl has always been close, too."
From where the Bruins stand, the Aloha Bowl is a nice consolation, a pleasant trip and an appearance on ABC. But it's not one of the major bowls, at least it's not a New Year's Day bowl. And shouldn't a team of the Bruins' strength and TV market be in the running, at least, for a Jan. 1 game?
Dalis said: "This happens to someone every year. If you lose your two games early, then everyone is interested and stays interested, hoping you don't lose again. But if you go into your final game looking like you're locked up with one of the major bowls, everyone else backs off.
"Remember when SMU went to the Sun Bowl at 10-1? Remember Washington in the Aloha Bowl in '82 at 9-2?"
Dalis said that the only bowl representative who stayed in contact with him all season was Tom Starr of the Freedom Bowl. And Dalis considered the Freedom Bowl a good backup option. Last year the Bruins came home from the Freedom Bowl with a profit. On the Aloha Bowl, they would just about break even.
"The Jan. 1 bowls have a lot of good teams to choose from, so they don't wait around," Dalis said. "There are some independents that came on strong this year. Notre Dame, for example, is a factor this year. . . .
"I really couldn't expect to be hearing from any of of the Jan. 1 bowls at the last minute."