By WENDELL WOOD
It appears as if BYU left the Western Athletic Conference at just the right time.
With the breakup of the 16-team league, Holiday Bowl directors exercised a contract clause with the WAC terminating what was once thought to be an indelible 17-year affiliation.
San Diego State is one of the eight WAC defectors, and the San Diego Holiday Bowl is worried about the possible decline of local interest because of the separation.
“I think they would probably want some ties with the home team,” BYU offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. “It’s certainly a disappointment.”
BYU has a very strong tradition of going to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Cougars have made it to the Holiday Bowl 11 times, including the inaugural Holiday Bowl in 1978 and the 1984 game when BYU defeated Michigan 24-17 to win the National Championship.
From 1978 through 1995, the Holiday Bowl matched the WAC champion against a Big-10 team. In 1995 the WAC expanded its post-season opportunities by adding a six-year deal in which the WAC champion played either in the Holiday Bowl or the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
However, the Holiday Bowl’s contract allowed them to sever ties with the WAC if there were any changes in three other bowl games played on New Year’s Day. That happened this year with the creation of the new Bowl Championship Series.
“It was an out for them. They can terminate the agreement, and they are not required to renegotiate,” said WAC Commissioner Karl Benson in a story by The Associated Press.
BYU’s Assistant Athletic Director Val Hale said it is disappointing for BYU players and fans.
“BYU’s fans and teams love going to the game in San Diego,” Hale said. “From BYU’s standpoint, it would be disappointing to lose the opportunity to play in the Holiday Bowl.”
BYU defensive end Ed Kehl is not worried about BYU’s post-season opportunities.
“Going to the bowl games are fun,” Kehl said. “There will be another good bowl that will pick us up.”
Other bowl possibilities for the WAC include the Aloha Classic doubleheader in Hawaii on Christmas day. WAC officials have expressed their interest in such a deal.
“It’s definitely a big loss for the WAC,” said BYU assistant coach Chris Pella. “The Holiday Bowl is the medallion of the WAC.”