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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

UCLA and Temple have different takes on the EagleBank Bowl

For the Bruins, Tuesday's game offers a way to break even financially. For the Owls, it's a priceless opportunity.

December 29, 2009|By Chris Foster

Reporting from Washington — UCLA and Temple view today's EagleBank Bowl from different perspectives.

For Temple, the opportunity is priceless because it will be only the third bowl game in the football program's 110-year history. The school was so excited that it produced a glossy, 104-page commemorative postseason guide to mark the occasion.

For UCLA, which will be making its eighth bowl appearance in 10 years, the game is more of a price-is-right experience.

UCLA failed to earn one of the six bowl spots affiliated with the Pacific 10 Conference but was able to accept an invitation to the EagleBank Bowl because the game was a break-even proposition financially.

The Bruins declined a bowl appearance at least once before because of the cost. The Bruins were invited to the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl, but Pete Dalis, UCLA's athletic director at the time, says he turned down the bid when game organizers asked the school to commit to a "sponsorship" of at least $300,000.

While Bowl Championship Series games offer huge paydays, some lower-tier bowl games now require schools to buy as many as 10,000 tickets to the game to participate.

"I had never heard a request like that before," Dalis recently recalled. "I had a responsibility to UCLA, and we were not going to spend that kind of money to give our team a bowl experience."

The Humanitarian Bowl, which will pit Idaho against Bowling Green at Boise, Idaho, on Wednesday, also expressed interest in UCLA this year, along with the Little Caesars Bowl, which was played Dec. 26 in Detroit.

The EagleBank Bowl "was attractive to us," UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said, "because it gave us the best opportunity to break even."

At a time when students are protesting on campus about fee hikes, that was important.

Coach Rick Neuheisel liked it for entirely different reasons. After a 4-8 record in 2008, his first season as coach, he made appearing in a bowl game a primary goal this year.

"My job is to make sure everyone else knows how important these opportunities are for your team, and the development of your team, if you look long-range," Neuheisel said.

UCLA is 6-6, and with a victory, Neuheisel can claim a winning season. The coach was also interested in the 12 extra practice sessions his team was allowed for bowl preparation.

"I understand there is bean counting that has to take place," Neuheisel said. "But I also understand that there will be more beans the better we do.

"The more we get to play and the more we get to practice, the more exposure our team gets. So, in terms of rewards for football programs, the faster we'll get there."

Of course, any momentum the Bruins might gain would be killed by a loss to a Temple program making its first postseason appearance in 30 years.

Whereas UCLA is expected to bring fewer than 2,000 fans to the game, Temple quickly sold its allotment of 5,000 tickets, and the school's football website welcomes visitors with a screaming "Temple's Going Bowling!" headline and has links to "owlbowl.com" and websites promoting airfare and train packages from Philadelphia to the game.

The enthusiasm is understandable. The Owls are 9-3, the most wins for a Temple football team since the 1979 team finished 10-2 and played in the now-defunct Garden State Bowl.

Today's game, Temple Coach Al Golden said, offers "a great next step for our program."

UCLA's Neuheisel might say the same -- but he'll be waiting until after the game.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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