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The Orange Bowl that wasn't

Proposed Oklahoma-Va. Tech game busted by BCS

Posted: Monday December 17, 2007 7:02PM; Updated: Monday December 17, 2007 7:02PM
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A proposed matchup would have pitted Sam Bradford, Allen Patrick and the No. 4 Sooners against third-ranked Virginia Tech.
A proposed matchup would have pitted Sam Bradford, Allen Patrick and the No. 4 Sooners against third-ranked Virginia Tech.
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In the chaotic hours following the final, upset-laden night of the 2007 regular season, coaches and fans from as many as seven different teams made their case to earn one of the two spots in the BCS National Championship Game.

The BCS ultimately selected consensus No. 1 and 2 teams, Ohio State and LSU, but many followers -- myself included -- were left disappointed that none of the other highly ranked contenders (Oklahoma, Georgia, Virginia Tech or USC) were pitted against each other in bowl games.

As it turns out, an 11th-hour agreement had been reached that would have allowed the No. 3 and 4 teams in the final BCS standings -- Virginia Tech and Oklahoma -- to meet in the Orange Bowl, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. The conference commissioners who oversee the BCS, however, shot it down -- and several of the affected parties are still wondering why.

According to the official BCS selection process, the Hokies, as ACC champions, and the Sooners, as Big 12 champions, were "contractually committed" to their conference's host games -- Virginia Tech to the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma to the Fiesta Bowl.

However, there's also a written clause -- one that has yet to be invoked during the BCS' 10-year history -- that allows the commissioners to "adjust the pairings ... after the completion of the selection process." Among the circumstances that can be taken into consideration are "whether the same team will be playing in the same bowl game for two consecutive years" (Oklahoma played Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl) and "whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans ..."

Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione confirmed Monday that on the morning of the Dec. 2 BCS selection show -- before the results of the final BCS standings were known -- he spoke with Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker about the possibility of invoking that clause to allow the Sooners to face "the highest-ranked team available."

"If we weren't going to be in the 1 vs. 2 game, we wanted to know if there was a possibility to play the highest-ranked team out there," said Castiglione. "At that point, we didn't know which team that would be."

According to sources involved in the discussions, Junker, along with Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, began contacting officials from the other bowls to see what could be worked out. It was well known by then that the Rose Bowl intended to take Big Ten at-large Illinois to meet Pac-10 champ USC and that automatic entrant Hawaii was heading to the Sugar Bowl, leaving the Fiesta and Orange bowls as the only games with any flexibility.

According to those same sources, the Fiesta and Orange bowls worked out an agreement to "swap" Oklahoma for the Orange Bowl's anticipated at-large choice, Kansas, creating an attractive No. 3 vs. 4 matchup in Miami while also allowing the Fiesta to host a Kansas team it had coveted throughout the Jayhawks' surprising 11-1 season.

Any such "adjustment" to the written placement rules, however, must be requested and then approved by the BCS commissioners following the conclusion of the formal selection process. Beebe said he made the request on behalf of his league's school but was met by resistance.

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