The Blockbuster Bowl, still in its infancy, is trying to muscle in on football's traditional New Year's Day games by offering millions of dollars to win commitments from the Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences.
A representative of the bowl said yesterday that the conferences have been offered major financial payoffs if they sign long-term agreements to play in the Miami-based game.
Such a contract, however, could jeopardize a proposed alliance among the USF&G; Sugar, Federal Express Orange, Mobil Cotton and Fiesta bowls.
The alliance would commit the Big East champion, the ACC champion and Notre Dame to the four-bowl arrangement, along with the champions of the Southeastern Conference, the Big Eight and Southwest Conference, plus two at-large teams.
Harper Davidson, president of the Orange Bowl Committee, said he was aware of the Blockbuster proposal, but was optimistic that it wouldn't derail the alliance.
But though Davidson said he hoped to formally sign the alliance next week, ACC assistant commissioner Tom Mickle said he now doubts his conference will make any commitments before January.
"We are committed to trying to make the coalition work," Mickle said, but added that the Blockbuster offer "certainly gets your attention."
The Boston Globe reported the Blockbuster Bowl was offering $4.3 million per team.
* NOTRE DAME: Rumors were rampant that defensive coordinator Gary Darnell was under pressure to leave even as the Irish prepared for their Sugar Bowl game against Florida.
Darnell said he was in contact with Northwestern, which is seeking a new coach, and said he is good friends with newly appointed Texas coach John Mackovic, who is looking for assistants.
Notre Dame, 9-3, blew a 24-point lead in a loss to Tennessee, gave up 35 points in losing to Penn State and surrendered 42 points in edging Hawaii.
* ILLINOIS: Defensive coordinator Lou Tepper was promoted to head coach, one day after John Mackovic resigned to take over the Texas football program.
Tepper, 46, who will coach the Illini against UCLA in the John Hancock Bowl on Dec. 31, said he does not expect to lose any assistant coaches before then.