SAN DIEGO -- Spurned by the BCS, the Oregon Ducks had to
settle for the next-best thing -- a late-December trip to San Diego.
The No. 6 Ducks (10-1), whose only loss was to top-ranked USC,
accepted an invitation to play Oklahoma in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on Dec.
29 after they were passed over for an at-large BCS berth.
"I think 'disappointed' is more the word than 'surprised,'"
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said on a conference call on Sunday.
"I didn't quite understand the Notre Dame deal. But obviously I
have not been a student of the BCS," said Bellotti, whose Ducks
were passed over for a shot at the national championship game four
Oregon was No. 5 in the final BCS standings, one spot ahead of
Notre Dame. But Notre Dame has an easier shot at a BCS berth,
including a stipulation that the school gets an automatic at-large bid if it is ranked third through sixth in the final BCS standings.
The Pac-10 had lobbied the BCS, specifically the Fiesta Bowl, on
behalf of Oregon, which finished second in the conference to USC.
But Notre Dame and Ohio State, both 9-2, received bids to the
Fiesta, which pays between $14 million and $17 million per team.
The Holiday Bowl's payout is $2 million per team.
Last year, California was 10-1 but got bumped out of the Rose
Bowl by Texas and went to the Holiday Bowl, losing 45-31 to Texas
As is often the case, the Holiday Bowl gets at least one team
that thought it might have had a chance of playing in a bigger --
and more lucrative -- bowl.
"We couldn't be happier to have the No. 5-ranked team in the
country in the BCS polls representing the Pac-10 in the Holiday
Bowl," executive director Bruce Binkowski said. "We understand
that that is their goal, to play in the BCS. But the system is the
system. For us to have the opportunity to get the fifth-ranked team
in the country is great. Also, we've never had Oklahoma before.
They've had a great second half. We couldn't be happier with the
Oklahoma (7-4) won five of its last six games.
Oregon will play in the Holiday Bowl for the first time since
2000, when it beat Texas 35-30.
"Overall, we're excited about the Holiday Bowl," Bellotti
said. "We had a great experience there the last time, in playing
and defeating the University of Texas."
Oregon played Oklahoma last season and will play the Sooners
again in 2006.
"I guess this will be a preview," Bellotti said.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said the Ducks have a strong argument
to be in a BCS bowl.
"They've had a great year," Stoops said. "They do a great
job, 10-1, they only lost to USC. There's no question I could see
where that would be difficult for them. But, of all places to go,
the Holiday Bowl is an incredible destination."
Stoops has been to two previous Holiday Bowls, as a graduate
assistant with Iowa in 1986 and an assistant coach with Kansas
State in 1995.