Notre Dame and Virginia said "no thanks" to the Fiesta Bowl. Louisville apparently is ready to say "thank you."
Although Fiesta officials refused to confirm the choice, No. 20 Louisville told officials of the All American Bowl on Monday that the Cardinals were withdrawing their commitment to play North Carolina State in the Dec. 28 game in Birmingham, Ala."It's our understanding that Louisville is going to the Fiesta Bowl," said Dan Hendley, chairman of the scouting committee for the All American Bowl.
Before he left for Birmingham to speak to the city's Quarterback Club, Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger was known to have called a meeting of his 24 seniors to ask how they felt about playing in a state which had rejected a paid holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
There was no negative reaction, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
"He told us he didn't know anything at that point, but there was a good chance we'd be invited to the Fiesta," quarterback Browning Nagle told the paper. "He asked us how we felt and we about went through the roof. It was unbelievable; the guys were just ecstatic."
Schnellenberger told the booster club he hoped sports could be cut off from politics.
By changing games, the Cardinals - who haven't been to a bowl since 1977 - would increase their payday from $600,000 to $2.5 million.
Fiesta Bowl spokesman Brent DeRaad stopped short of saying the Cardinals (9-1-1) were a lock but said officials were confident about solving the dilemma posed by rejections from No. 8 Virginia, which opted for the Sugar Bowl following last week's vote on the King holiday, and the loss of top-ranked Notre Dame to the Orange Bowl.
Don Meyers, chairman of the Fiesta Bowl's selection committee, told The Associated Press that the competing teams would be announced at a news conference today.
DeRaad said the other team probably would come from the Southeastern Conference - either the loser of Saturday's Tennessee-Mississippi game or the winner of the Auburn-Alabama game on Dec. 1.
Tennessee is ranked No. 14, Mississippi No. 15 and Auburn No. 24. Unranked Alabama is coached by former Phoenix Cardinals coach Gene Stallings, who was popular in the Phoenix area.
Auburn also would provide a coaching angle, but without a local touch. Schnellenberger and Auburn coach Pat Dye worked together on the staff of the legendary Bear Bryant at Alabama in 1965.
If the Fiesta has to turn to the Southwest Conference, it would get Baylor, which reportedly was committed to play Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl. The Holiday Bowl has a firm commitment from Texas and Texas A&M, whichever one does not go to the Cotton Bowl.
After a 14-hour session Sunday, the Fiesta staff met most of Monday.
Fallout from last Tuesday's vote against the King holiday prompoted Fiesta officials to consider moving the game out of Arizona. But they decided Sunday to keep the game in Tempe, where the 19 previous games have been played.