The Freedom Bowl will continue its months-long courtship of Stanford Saturday, the day before bowl bids officially can be made.
Executive Director Don Andersen will be the Freedom Bowl’s representative when the 22nd-ranked Cardinal plays at Washington State. It will be the sixth consecutive Stanford game the Freedom Bowl has scouted, and the second in a row for Andersen.
The streak began Oct. 12, the opening day for bowl scouting. Stanford was 1-3 and coming off a 42-26 loss to Notre Dame. When the Cardinal beat Cornell, 56-6, the Freedom Bowl’s Norm Hainlen was the only bowl representative present.
After victories over USC, Oregon State, Oregon and Saturday’s 27-10 upset of UCLA, the Eagle Aloha, Domino’s Copper and John Hancock joined the list of bowl games interested in the Cardinal.
However, the Freedom Bowl could have the inside track to land Stanford, which has not gone to a bowl game since the 1986 Gator Bowl, where they lost to Clemson, 27-21.
Officially, Green and Stanford are mum on the subject, preferring instead to concentrate on preparing for Washington State. A victory over the Cougars would be the Cardinal’s sixth over NCAA Division I-A teams, the minimum required for postseason participation under an NCAA rule that went into effect this season. (Cornell is a member of the Ivy League, a Division I-AA conference.)
Andersen is excited about the possibility of Stanford playing Dec. 30 in Anaheim Stadium. Bowl officials cannot extend invitations before noon Sunday (PST). Officials violating the rule are subject to a $250,000 fine by the Football Bowl Assn.
“They would be big-time for us,” Andersen said. “They have an excellent image, have not been to bowl games on a regular basis. They said 29% of their alumni live in Southern California. They have a lot of kids on their roster from Southern California and have a very impressive win over Colorado.”
Among the Southland players on the Cardinal roster is quarterback Steve Stenstrom, an El Toro High graduate who has guided Stanford to five consecutive victories, the school’s longest streak since 1951.
The Freedom Bowl’s quest for Stanford began in the spring, when Andersen and committee members visited Green and California Coach Bruce Snyder.
“We wanted to tell them the story of the Freedom Bowl and that we wanted to have California teams from (the Pacific 10) Conference that looked at our bowl as a step forward,” Andersen said.
Another team fitting that criteria--based on their performance the past two seasons--and coveted by Andersen is UCLA. The Bruins have been absent from bowls since their appearance in the 1989 Mobil Cotton Bowl, where they defeated Arkansas, 17-3. A Freedom Bowl representative will also be at Saturday’s UCLA-Oregon game.
The John Hancock Bowl is reportedly negotiating with the Pac-10 to send its third-place team to El Paso. The New Year’s Eve game offers a $1-million per-team payout, compared to the NCAA-minimum $650,000 for the Freedom Bowl. But Andersen said UCLA “would net more money” by going to the Freedom Bowl because of decreased travel and lodging expenses.
To face the Pac-10 representative, the Freedom Bowl is considering Tulsa (6-2), Kansas (5-4) and Illinois (6-3), as well as the loser of the Brigham Young-San Diego State game. However, either the Cougars or Aztecs “probably” would be dropped if UCLA accepts a Freedom Bowl invitation since the Bruins have already beaten both this season, Andersen said.