Cancel the Holiday plans

by publicationarchive

On Saturday San Diego State fans were in the awkward position of rooting for rival Brigham Young. Simply put, if BYU didn’t win the Western Athletic Conference title, then the Aztecs weren’t going to play in a bowl game.

Guess what?

BYU won, barely, 28-25 in overtime, over Wyoming for the WAC championship, and the Aztecs still won’t play in a bowl game.

“I can’t compare BYU’s situation with ours,” SDSU head coach Ted Tollner said late Sunday afternoon. “They’re two separate situations.”

Maybe, but both teams ended up losing.

Yesterday afternoon the Bowl Alliance announced its third annual pairings. Designed two years ago to ensure a No.1 vs. No. 2 matchup at season’s end for the national championship, the alliance passed over No. 5 BYU in its pairings, leaving SDSU frozen out of the bowl picture.

Under the alliance’s current set-up, the title game is passed around among the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls.

This year’s title game between No. 1 Florida State (11-0) and No. 3 Florida (10-1) will be held at the Sugar Bowl on Jan 2.

The WAC was promoting the Cougars as a candidate to fill one of the alliance’s two at-large berths, preferably in a Fiesta Bowl matchup vs. (10-2) Penn State.

Instead, the previously unranked Longhorns (who upset Nebraska 37-27 yesterday for the Big-12 title) will get a shot at Penn State. And BYU will meet No. 14 Kansas State (9-2) in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1.

And that’s what may have cost the Aztecs their shot at the post-season.

“I’m really disappointed in the decision in the Bowl Alliance,” Tollner said. “I really thought the at-large was for the highest-ranked at-large team, which was BYU. I think BYU really got a bad deal.”

BYU’s loss trickles down to the rest of the conference.

If the Cougars had gone to the Fiesta, that would have freed up bowl slots in both the Holiday, Copper and Cotton Bowls, which have tie-ins to the WAC.

It was thought that the Aztecs had a shot at the Holiday Bowl because as the hometown team the bowl is played at Jack Murphy Stadium on Dec. 30 they would be able to sell a good number of tickets.

Now, since BYU couldn’t get into the Fiesta, it will settle for the Cotton.

The Holiday will now match up two 9-2 squads, Colorado and Washington, marking the first time in more than a decade the WAC will not be represented at what had been its own showcase.

In fact, no WAC team outside of Utah will play another game this year. Utah (8-3) will play in the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz., Dec. 27 against Wisconsin (7-5), leaving Wyoming the 10-2 Pacific Division champions out of the bowl picture entirely, not to mention the Aztecs.

Why Utah? Simple. The Utes travel better, meaning they can bring more fans out to Tucson to see them.

At press time, WAC Commissioner Karl Benson was to hold a 5 p.m. teleconference to discuss the ramifications of Sunday’s snub. Benson has said in the past the conference was considering legal action if the Cougars were not selected for the alliance.

“You either win a game or you lose it, and we won,” BYU coach LaVell Edwards told reporters after yesterday’s game. “I don’t care by how much. We’re 13-1. That is the bottom line.”

To a football coach, that may be true. But in a time when fan bases and marketing revenue determine who plays in the postseason, the bottom line almost always seems to have a dollar sign attached.

While the legal and political effects of yesterday may not be fully addressed for a while, the more immediate results are here now. Despite a winning season and finishing second in their division, Montezuma Mesa will be silent again come Holiday season.

“If we didn’t go to a bowl, it was because we didn’t take care of business,” Tollner said. “I’m disappointed that our players won’t be able to experience a bowl.”