Fiesta Bowl wasn't looking at the non-AQ distiction

When rumors surfaced that Boise State and TCU might be playing each other in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, it started a storm of controversy.

Fans and media were calling the game a cop-out and a way for the automatic qualifying teams to avoid being embarrassed by a nonautomatic qualifier like they have three of the four times those sets of teams have met.

But Tostitos Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker said the thought of pitting Boise State and TCU together to save the other BCS bowls from having to take them never even entered his mind.

“That’s the biggest load of crap that I’ve ever heard in my life,” Junker said during the Fiesta Bowl’s teleconference Sunday evening. “We’re in the business of doing things that are on behalf of our bowl game and we don’t do the bidding of someone else to our detriment. These two programs either belong at the top level of college football or they don’t. And clearly they do belong and if they do belong then they should play anybody, including each other. That was never even a question for us.”

Junker said taking TCU with the bowl’s first pick was a no-brainer. He said he wanted the highest ranked team possible and while Cincinnati was still on the table, he and his board though TCU’s proximity to Tempe, Ariz., might make the game more accessible to fans. By the time the Fiesta Bowl’s second pick came around, he thought a meeting of two undefeated teams would make a good bowl game.

Junker acknowledged that picking Boise State was based on performance and proximity. Already both schools have asked for more tickets than their 17,500 allotment, and Junker said the rest of the bowl was already sold out.

“To us, this is an incredible, incredible attraction,” Junker said. “Anyone who says these teams should be playing quote, a team from a bigger conference, is really doing a disservice to all of these players, the job they’ve turned in, and the job they did in building their programs. They’re absolutely incredible all the way. They belong and we think it’s a game that is going to have a tremendous amount of attention across the country.”

Junker dismissed the fact that these two teams had met in the Poinsettia Bowl last season. TCU won the game 17-16, but both teams lost some key players from those squads.

Both Boise State and TCU finished their seasons undefeated, ran through their conferences with relative ease and put up gaudy numbers doing it. TCU is the only team in the country ranked in the top six in scoring offense and defense. Boise State has the nation’s best scoring offense and an offensive line that leads the nation in sacks allowed.

Boise State and TCU have consistently done what the BCS has asked of them in terms of winning and beating quality opponents and Junker thinks both should be rewarded for their accomplishments.

“I think those teams are quality teams in every way and if they’re not good enough to play each other, why should they be good enough to play AQ teams?” Junker said. “We see it as taking a large chunk out of the glass ceiling, if one indeed existed, and we think that we should look at those teams under the same prism in terms of the interest in the game and all the rest. They’re both playing top six competitors, they’re playing undefeated teams and we think it qualifies in every standard that we measure a game as being a very successful game.”