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Wednesday, November 6, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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College Football

In the Mountain West, a lack of eligible teams for Seattle Bowl

Seattle Times staff reporter

The two conferences with slots in the Seattle Bowl don't have much in common this season.

The Atlantic Coast Conference doesn't have a member school within 2,700 miles of Seahawks Stadium, is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and is flush with teams that might end up in Seattle. The Mountain West is geographically closer, hasn't yet turned 5, and is hoping to get a team qualified.

As the 2-year-old Seattle Bowl held a kickoff breakfast yesterday, only two Mountain West teams had won six games, and the conference may have to forfeit its spot in two bowl games (Seattle and San Francisco). The Seattle Bowl is slated to pit the fourth selection from the Mountain West against the sixth selection from the ACC on Dec. 30.

Aloha Sports CEO Terry Daw, the principal owner and founder of the Seattle Bowl, says he is speaking with other conferences about finding a substitute in case the Mountain West cannot send a representative. He would not identify the conferences.

Colorado State (8-2, 4-0) and Air Force (6-3, 3-2) have secured bowl eligibility, and only Wyoming (2-7, 1-3) is completely out of the hunt.

BYU and UNLV, both 4-5, have the best chances to reach the six-victory mark. BYU has Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah on the schedule; UNLV has Utah, Air Force and Colorado State.

"They have a 50-50 chance at becoming bowl eligible," said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson. "And New Mexico (4-5, 2-1) needs to win three out of its last four. They have a 40 percent chance.''

The Mountain West, which has a five-year commitment with the Seattle Bowl, sends its first three selections to the Liberty Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and San Francisco Bowl. Since the Mountain West has shorter contracts with those bowls, it may send a higher selection to Seattle in the future. The Liberty Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl contracts have three years to run, the San Francisco Bowl four.

"We're having trouble qualifying all of our teams, but I think this will be a long-term commitment for us regardless of what happens this year,'' Thompson said. "We recruit a lot of players from the Pacific Northwest, and the facility is state of the art.''

The Pac-10, which sent its fourth selection (Stanford) to the inaugural Seattle Bowl, decided to pass on a long-term agreement. The Pac-10 opted instead to play in San Jose (Silicon Valley Classic) and Tempe, Ariz. (Insight Bowl) along with previous commitments in the Las Vegas Bowl, San Diego (Holiday Bowl), El Paso, Texas (Sun Bowl) and, of course, with the BCS in the Rose Bowl.

The ACC's representative won the inaugural Seattle Bowl when Georgia Tech knocked off Stanford last season, and the conference's assistant commissioner, Mike Finn, says his schools are excited about going to a game in a different region.

All of the ACC's other bowl commitments are in southeastern cities. Last year's Oahu Bowl fulfilled the final year of the ACC's contract with that game.

"It went very well for Georgia Tech, and that's why we entered a multiyear commitment,'' said Finn, whose conference has a four-year contract with the Seattle Bowl. "Seattle's one of the best college football cities in the country, and it's a lot less strange than going to Hawaii.''

Daw says about 3,000 tickets, in addition to the 12,500 allotted to each school, have been sold for the game, for which he hopes to have a title sponsor by the end of next week.

Jabari Ritchie: 206-464-8294 or jritchie@seattletimes.com

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