SAN DIEGO — Read his lips: Hayden Fry is happy to be coming to the Holiday Bowl.
The Iowa football coach denounces a USA Today report that quoted him as being unhappy with the Big Ten Conference's arrangement with the Holiday Bowl.
He disagrees with his old friend Bo Schembechler, who in his new incarnation as a TV commentator, said the Big Ten runner-up deserved to be in a bigger bowl, preferably on New Year's Day.
Fry and his Holiday Bowl counterpart, LaVell Edwards of Brigham Young University, were in town Wednesday to officially start the bowl buildup, and Fry, in his down-home manner, made clear he's happier than crows in an Iowa cornfield to be coming here a third time.
"I've never been treated better than the Holiday Bowl people treated us our two previous visits," he said. "And those were two tremendously exciting games. The fans got their money's worth."
Iowa defeated Wyoming, 20-19, in 1987 and San Diego State, 39-38, the previous year.
Fry said nobody on his team or staff has complained about not playing in one of the New Year's Day bowls.
"It's never been mentioned," he said. "In past years, I let the players vote on it, and they like the sunshine. Some bowls you don't know what the weather will be. I'm just completely happy.
"One writer in USA Today insinuated we didn't want to come. That's completely wrong. And I love Bo, but he's a different cut of cloth, and we don't always agree.
"This will be one of the most colorful of all the bowl games."
Fry said some of the confusion about his feelings stemmed from his disinclination to see the Big Ten commit to bowls for the conference's Nos. 2 and 3 teams. He simply preferred to make his own deal. But, he said, if the majority of the Big Ten was for it, he has no problem. And he never meant it as a putdown of the Holiday Bowl.
"We're the only (vote) that counts and it doesn't matter to us," he said. "I study those things before I pop off, and I've researched this. We've never been to the Fiesta Bowl. We've never been to the Cotton Bowl. We sat around one Sunday waiting for them to call. That's when we started to come to the Holiday Bowl. And our fans love coming out here."
Fry, 62, also is looking forward to this matchup because of his longtime friendship with Edwards.
"He's one of my all-time heroes," Fry said.
Edwards, 61, countered, "I'm particularly pleased this year. It's one of the few times I won't be the oldest coach on the field."
Fry said he was rooting for BYU to beat San Diego State last month, in what turned out to be a 52-52 tie, partly because of his relationship with Edwards and partly because of the attraction of BYU quarterback Ty Detmer, last year's Heisman Trophy winner. Fry said Detmer makes the Cougars "a prestigious team."
"He's already a legend and he's still got a college game to play," Fry said. "I'm worried I'll get caught up watching Detmer and not my defenses. Detmer, in my opinion, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, college football quarterback ever to play the game. You don't stop a Ty Detmer. All we can hope to do is slow him up.
"I'm just proud I'm originally from Texas and he's originally from Texas."
Fry also had kind words for Al Luginbill's San Diego State program, tabbing it "very definitely" one to be feared in the next few years.
"They've got so many big play guys who are just freshmen, and a few sophomores," Fry said. "Luginbill's really done a good job of getting things together there. Their game with Brigham Young was one of the most awesome offensive displays ever seen. The biggest decision he's got to make in the next couple years is whether to emphasize the run or the pass. That's the kind of problem I'd like to have."