Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, May 23, 2001


Vegas Bowl
might fill Christmas

The postseason college football
game is scheduled to be
played Dec. 20

By Paul Arnett

With ESPN's purchase of the Las Vegas Bowl late last week, it's possible that game could be moved into the Christmas Day time slot to fill the void created by the departures of the Aloha and Oahu bowls to the mainland.

At this point, the game that pits a team from the Mountain West Conference vs. an at-large opponent is scheduled for Dec. 20. Like many of the smaller postseason games, it has struggled to find an identity.

Last year, Nevada-Las Vegas played Arkansas in the postseason event that drew only 20,000 fans. As good a job as legendary head football coach John Robinson has done in this desert community, the Rebels remain a hard sell.

The Las Vegas Bowl is trying to tie in with the Pac-10 in hopes of landing a marquee school that will generate local interest. Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said last week that the Las Vegas Bowl could have the sixth team from his league this year, then hope for a better draw in the future.

"This is the last year contractually with the new Jeep Seattle and Jeep San Francisco bowls, which currently have our fourth and fifth teams," Hansen said. "Hopefully, those bowls will do well and we'll continue our relationship with them. But if not, then the Las Vegas Bowl could move up."

The Jeep Seattle Bowl is scheduled for Jan. 2 and the Jeep San Francisco Bowl for Dec. 30.

Aloha Sports Inc. executive director Fritz Rohlfing wants to have a deal in place by the end of the month. He is in negotiations with all parties.

ABC-TV, however, is reportedly upset that Rohlfing went ahead and moved the games off Christmas Day and out of Hawaii without being consulted until after the NCAA bowl certification meetings late last month.

There had been some talk behind the scenes earlier this month that perhaps the Silicon Valley Football Classic -- which reportedly doesn't have a title sponsor -- could have its license bought out locally, allowing a game to be played here Christmas.

But Western Athletic Conference associate commissioner Jeff Hurd shot down that idea. He and other league officials don't believe the university presidents would act on something like that quickly enough for a game to be moved here on such short notice.

"If that slot is still open next year, then we would be willing to look at it as a possibility," Hurd said. "But right now, our two ties are with Silicon Valley and the Humanitarian bowls."

University of Hawaii officials would likely be involved in holding a game here and are anxious to do so, considering the Warriors' limited bowl outlets now that Rohlfing has taken the Christmas Day doubleheader elsewhere. But they need the backing of the WAC.

It's also possible that a proposed deal with San Francisco could fall through, forcing the Aloha Bowl back to Hawaii to be played on Christmas Day. ABC -- which is the parent company of ESPN -- wants to keep its Christmas presence.

That's where the Las Vegas Bowl comes in.

If Rohlfing is successful in moving both games to the mainland and neither is played on Christmas, network officials might float the idea by Las Vegas Bowl organizers to see if they are game.

Las Vegas hasn't been much of a postseason party in the past -- either on television or with local fans. If they aren't going to draw more than 20,000 anyway, then playing on Christmas might prove a good alternative.

This year's Aloha Bowl, despite drawing only 5,000 fans, still was in the top 10 in viewership with a TV rating of 4.9.

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