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Wednesday, December 3, 2003



4 WAC teams
likely in bowls




WAC bowling

Western Athletic Conference teams participating in bowl games this season, with game, opponent and date:

x-Boise State: Fort Worth Bowl , TCU, Dec. 23
Hawaii: Hawaii Bowl, Houston, Dec. 25
x-Fresno State: Silicon Valley Classic, UCLA, Dec. 30
x-Tulsa: Humanitarian Bowl, Georgia Tech, Jan. 3
x-Pending two Big 12 teams qualifying for BCS bowl games



For the first time since the Western Athletic Conference split in 1998, the league will most likely have four teams participating in bowl games.

Three WAC teams accepted conditional bowl bids yesterday, joining Hawaii as WAC teams that will participate in postseason games.

Fresno State will take on UCLA in the Silicon Valley Classic; Tulsa will face Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl; and Boise State will play Texas Christian in the Fort Worth Bowl -- if, as expected, two Big 12 teams are picked for Bowl Championship Series games.

The Warriors take on Houston in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 25 at Aloha Stadium.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a foregone conclusion," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said yesterday. "I'm anticipating it will all materialize and fall into place."

It would be the first time since 1998 that four teams from the WAC play in bowl games. San Diego State, Air Force, Brigham Young and TCU played in bowls in the last year the league had 16 teams.

In the past, the WAC has had difficulty placing all its bowl-eligible teams in games. If Benson hadn't found another game for either Boise or Tulsa, Fresno might have been out of the bowl picture. Air Force, Northern Illinois and UConn were also vying for the Fort Worth Bowl conditional bid, Benson said.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome," Benson said.

If the Big 12 gets two teams in the BCS as expected, the league won't have enough bowl-eligible teams to send a team to the Fort Worth Bowl.

That would create an at-large spot for No. 18 Boise State (11-1, 7-0), the WAC champion that plays its regular-season finale Saturday at Hawaii. Tulsa (8-4, 6-2) and Fresno State (8-5, 6-2) will play in bowl games with WAC tie-ins. In the unlikely event that the Big 12 gets the spot in the Fort Worth Bowl, Tulsa and Boise State would get the Silicon Valley and Humanitarion spots and Fresno might be out of luck.

"If the Big 12 doesn't have enough teams to fill their guaranteed eight bowl slots, we are thrilled that Boise State has accepted our bid to play TCU," Fort Worth Bowl executive director Tom Starr said.

No. 19 TCU (11-1) accepted an invitation late Monday to play in the bowl that will be played on its campus. The Horned Frogs turned down an invitation to the GMAC Bowl because that Dec. 18 game conflicted with final exams.

The Golden Hurricane would be making their first bowl appearance since 1991. That was also the last time Tulsa had a winning season.

Before this season, Tulsa had won only one of its last 22 games and, at one time, had a 17-game losing streak that was the longest in the nation.

"This is a great opportunity for our football team to get to play one more game," first-year Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "This team is deserving of the opportunity to play in a bowl game."

Georgia Tech (6-6, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished tied for fourth in the conference with North Carolina State and Virginia after a preseason poll predicted the Yellow Jackets would finish eighth, ahead of only Duke.

Meanwhile, Fresno State and UCLA will play in the Dec. 30 Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., bowl officials said last night.

UCLA (6-6, 4-4 Pac-10) lost its last four games but was picked over Washington (6-6, 4-4) to represent the Pac-10 in the game, said Greg Jamison, the bowl's chairman.

The Bruins' 46-16 win over the Huskies on Oct. 4 was a factor in the decision, Jamison said.

Fresno State will be making its fourth consecutive appearance in the bowl. The Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 30-21 in last year's game.

"We couldn't ask for a better matchup," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said during a conference call. "We've had a couple of good games, since I've been head coach, with UCLA. When you're playing a school like UCLA, it's a school rich with tradition, the kind of matchup you want."

First-year UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell was out of state recruiting, but said in a statement that he was pleased the Bruins were invited.

"This bowl will give our seniors the opportunity to leave UCLA on a good note," Dorrell said. "For our younger players, they can gain valuable experience with additional practice time."

The Bruins finished Pac-10 play with lopsided losses to Washington State, Oregon and USC.

"We certainly wanted to continue our season, and the opportunity to play in this bowl was important to us," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said.

"It's the first time two California schools have played in the Silicon Valley Bowl. For UCLA, it's an opportunity to continue to move forward and we're just excited to be in it."

The Bruins have 20 players from Northern California, including senior defensive end Dave Ball, recently named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year by the conference's coaches.

The Bulldogs and Bruins last faced each other in 2000 and UCLA won that regular-season game 24-21 at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins are 6-0 against the Bulldogs, with all six victories at home.

Fresno State finished tied for second in the WAC, and five of the Bulldogs' losses were against teams going to bowl games, including No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 7 Tennessee.



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