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Freedom Wants Colorado State; Fiesta Chooses

November 13, 1990|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI and STEVE KRESAL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Colorado State will receive an invitation to the Freedom Bowl, officials announced Monday, and 20th-ranked Louisville will play one of three Southeastern Conference teams--Tennessee, Alabama or Auburn--in the Fiesta Bowl at Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium.

Colorado State and Oregon apparently will be opponents in the Dec. 29 Freedom Bowl game at Anaheim Stadium.

Oval Jaynes, the Colorado State Athletic Director, said his university would accept the bid when it can be officially extended Nov. 24. Oregon Athletic Director Bill Byrne made a similar statement last week.

Colorado State, the second-place team in the Western Athletic Conference, and Oregon, the fifth place-team in the Pacific 10, each have 7-3 records.

"The two teams are excited about coming to the game," said Don Andersen, who is the executive director of the Orange County Sports Assn., which runs the bowl game. "Neither team is looking at this as a consolation prize."

It will be the first bowl appearence for Colorado State since 1948, when the Rams lost to Occidental College, 21-20, in the now-defunct Raisin Bowl in Fresno. It is the second bowl appearence in the 95-year history of the school.

As recently as two years ago, Colorado State's program was floundering. The Rams were 1-11 in 1988 and 1-10 the season before. Earle Bruce, who coached at Ohio State from 1979 to 1987, took over the program in 1989 and led Colorado State to a 5-5-1 season.

The last time Colorado State won more than seven games was in 1977, when the Rams were 9-2-1.

Oregon will be making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in the history of the university. Last season, the Ducks defeated Tulsa, 27-24, in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

An official announcement is expected today, but Fiesta Bowl sources said Monday that Louisville, which finished the season 9-1-1, has agreed to accept the Fiesta invitation. The situation with the remaining bid is slightly more complicated. Here are the conditions:

--If Mississippi wins the SEC and the automatic Sugar Bowl bid, then the Fiesta selection committee will choose between Tennessee and the Auburn-Alabama winner.

--If Tennessee wins the SEC, then the Fiesta will choose the Auburn-Alabama winner.

--If Auburn or Alabama wins the SEC, then the Fiesta would offer Tennessee the bid.

Only three days ago, embattled Fiesta Bowl officials were seriously discussing canceling this season's game. At issue was the failed referendum calling for an Arizona state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Because of the vote, much-wanted schools such as Virginia declined to play in the Tempe-based bowl.

And only two days ago, Fiesta officials spent their entire Sunday calling at least a dozen teams, probably more, in search of two programs that would be willing to accept a bid. The Fiesta offered its estimated payout of $2.5 million and assurances that significant efforts were under way to diffuse the King situation.

Among the possibilities is a halftime show that would feature a civil rights theme. NBC, which is the network responsible for the broadcast, has indicated to Fiesta organizers that it might consider enlisting the help of some of its entertainers. Also being discussed is an additional $200,000 fee paid to each of the participating universities. The money would be earmarked for a school's minority affairs program or minority scholarship fund.

For Louisville, the Fiesta invitation marks the first time since 1977 the Cardinals will play in a bowl. Coach Howard Schnellenberger called each of his team's 24 seniors at 6:30 Monday morning and met with them an hour later to discuss the situation. Later that day, after talks involving Schnellenberger, Donald Swain, university president, and Bill Olsen, athletic director, the bid was accepted.

Meanwhile, the presidents of Tennessee, Auburn and Alabama, were gathering information regarding the Fiesta Bowl. Satisfied with the Fiesta's efforts and intent, approval was given to play in the New Year's Day game.

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