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Inside College Football | Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE

It's Not Going to Be a Fiesta for Everyone

November 10, 2005|Chris Dufresne

The common-sense approach would be to let all the bowl scenarios play themselves out over the next three weeks, but, frankly, we have some time to kill.

And so it was this week that Fiesta Bowl Chief Executive John Junker's voice caromed from Phoenix off a cellular phone satellite as he tried to bring a reporter back to earth.

"Keep your powder dry," Junker said. "Take your time, relax."

Easy for Junker to say, as he's three positive Notre Dame outcomes from landing the Irish and all the Nielsen homes they connect to.

Or is he?

Now that it seems USC and Texas are going to prevent another bowl championship series screw-up by actually being the two most worthy teams playing for the national championship in the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl, the next-best bowl drama is playing out in Arizona, where the Fiesta mulls intriguing possibilities as it tries not to strain relationships.

If it's USC-Texas in the Rose, the Fiesta Bowl gets two of the next three selections, the first for "losing" anchor Texas to the title game.

If the Fiesta picks a 9-2 Notre Dame, however, it might have to explain why it didn't take the Big Ten champion if that champ is 10-1 Penn State, which is 6-0 in Tempe and helped put the Fiesta Bowl on the national map.

If the Fiesta takes Notre Dame, the Orange Bowl probably will prevent a Notre Dame-Penn State game by snagging Joe Paterno's team.

And if the Fiesta can't make that game, it will have to find a partner for Notre Dame. And that pick might make some people mad.

One who pops to mind is Pacific 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen, who will be lobbying like a Washington insider for Oregon if the Ducks win their final two games and finish BCS-eligible at 10-1.

"They're an awfully good team," Hansen said this week. "And they have a record of traveling well down there."

Hansen was recalling Oregon's successful Fiesta romp over Colorado to cap a brilliant 2001 season.

Tempe would be the only realistic landing spot for Oregon, but the Fiesta might want to go elsewhere -- although no one is saying anything yet.

"At 10-1, they're on our list," Junker said of Oregon if the Ducks beat Washington State and Oregon State.

The Fiesta also will be monitoring one-loss schools that may not win their conferences -- Virginia Tech or Texas Tech -- and also drooling over the prospect of a dream game: Notre Dame vs. one-loss Alabama.

There are a handful of scenarios in which 10-1 Oregon is left out, and that would rub one commissioner the wrong way.

And, wouldn't you know it, there is a back story:

In 2000, Hansen threatened to pull the Pac-10 out of the BCS if Oregon State, which finished No. 6 in the BCS, did not get an at-large bid. Hansen won that fight and was justified when Oregon State drilled Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, 41-9.

This year, the Insight Bowl, which is operated by the Fiesta Bowl, dropped the Pac-10 as a client and, starting in 2006, will match a Big Ten school against a Big 12 school.

It was business, nothing personal, as the Insight was concerned in part that the new Pac-10 round-robin format next year might overexpose conference teams in the Phoenix area and hurt economic impact.

Well, guess what, Oregon already has played games at Arizona and Arizona State this year.

Pac-10 feelings are still raw over the Insight issue, but Junker said those are different tortilla chips.

"The Insight is a good property," he said, "but it has absolutely no impact on how we select the Fiesta."

Junker, sounding like a coach, said it's too early to make projections.

He said trying to look too far ahead in the bowl game is like "the excited guy going to his first high school dance."

The Ol' Drawl Coach

Florida (7-2) plays at South Carolina (6-3) in a game that pits Steve Spurrier against his legacy.

"Should be a full house here Saturday," Spurrier quipped Wednesday.

You think?

This game has been circled on calendars ever since Spurrier, who led Florida to six outright Southeastern Conference titles and a

national title in 12 years, was named South Carolina coach late last year.

Spurrier's first season in Columbia has already been an unqualified success.

The "Ol' Ball Coach" thought it would take two or three years to get South Carolina out of the Gamecock coop, but if Spurrier somehow beats Florida and Georgia loses twice more, guess which team wins the SEC East?

There was considerable ink spilled over why Florida hired Urban Meyer instead of taking back Spurrier after he walked away from his failed venture with the Washington Redskins.

Clearly, though, this worked out best for both schools.

"Everyone forgets that I sort of chose to leave," Spurrier said of his decision to leave Gainesville after the 2001 season. " ... Trying to do it again would not have made sense for me and Florida."

Starting over at a perennial bottom-feeder has reenergized Spurrier.

"If we can do some things for the first time ever, that's a thrill, it really is," he said.

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