Local funding, NBC help make Fiesta one of majors on bowl scene


DALLAS -- The Fiesta Bowl, with help from its local governments and NBC Sports, won over the members of the postseason college football alliance and will become its fourth bowl.

The six charter members of the alliance reached a consensus in a conference call yesterday morning to select the Tempe, Ariz.-based Fiesta over the Florida Citrus and three other candidates.

The alliance did not release results of a vote.

"Obviously, we're pleased, honored and truly excited to be selected to go forward with the group," Fiesta Bowl president Chuck Johnson said, referring to the plan that will begin with the 1992 season.

The Fiesta Bowl in most seasons will have the teams left over from a pool of five after the Mobil Cotton, the USF&G; Sugar and the Federal Express Orange have made their selections. That pool will include the champions of the Atlantic Coast and Big East conferences, Notre Dame and two at-large teams.

However, if that pool includes the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams, they will play in the Fiesta Bowl. Twice in the past six seasons, Sun Devil Stadium has served as the site of national title games.

"The Fiesta Bowl stepped up to the plate," Cotton Bowl executive vice president Jim Brock said. "It's a good place to play. They've been in the national championship arena before. I like the way games are in Florida, New Orleans, Dallas and Phoenix. It makes the alliance a national scene."

The Fiesta achieved the required $3 million minimum payout per team with financial guarantees, Johnson said.

He added, however, that efforts to secure a title sponsor likely will leave the local government's guarantees unused.

The Fiesta also received a commitment from NBC Sports that would allow the Big Ten and Pacific 10 conferences to end their boycott of the game. Neither league currently will play in the Fiesta because it is televised opposite the Rose Bowl, which features their champions.

The 21-year-old Fiesta Bowl elbowed itself into a place among the major New Year's Day bowls in the 1980s with cockiness and a disdainfor tradition.

In the past nine months, however, the Fiesta got stuck in the mire of Arizona's controversy over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Then it faced the possibility of being left out of the alliance.

After the decision yesterday, Johnson sounded anything but cocky.

"We're pleased to join the three major bowls," he said. "Maybe we're Johnny-come-latelys and we've only had a big game for the last five years. Maybe we have just a small percentage of their tradition . . . Maybe we can continue to grow with them."

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