MIAMI -- To Virginia athletic director Jim Copeland, this all seems a little ludicrous.
Copeland was playing the phone like a violin last year, pleading with bowl scouts to come watch the Cavaliers. Now No. 1 Virginia is college football's scalding-hot property and the team that will touch the first domino before 19 bowl games eventually cascade into place.
"It's unbelievable," Copeland said yesterday. "We've never been in this position."
Virginia's standing is so strong that two of the Orange Bowl's top officials will soon fly to Greensboro, N.C., intent on lobbying Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Gene Corrigan for a shot at the Cavaliers. Orange Bowl committee president Arthur Hertz and the bowl's executive director, Steve Hatchell, are tentatively planning a trip "next week at the latest," Hertz said yesterday. Orange Bowl committee members already have been attending Virginia games and gladhanding various Cavaliers officials.
What Hertz and Hatchell hope to convince Corrigan of is this -- the ACC can't afford not to send Virginia to Miami, preferably in a game against a still-undefeated Nebraska team, ranked No. 4 by The Associated Press.
The ACC has an agreement to place its champion in the Citrus Bowl, but the Cavaliers should have an out. While the Orange Bowl will pay $4.2 million per team this year, the Citrus currently gives only $1.2 million each. The ACC-Citrus contract states that if a league team is ranked No. 1 by UPI on Nov. 13 -- bowl selection day is Nov. 17 -- the Citrus Bowl must come up with enough money to make its offer "competitive" with the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl ($3.2 million) and Cotton Bowl ($3.2 million).
What does competitive mean in this context? No one seems to know.
"It's completely subjective," said Copeland, whose school is idle this week before playing 16th-ranked Georgia Tech Nov. 3. "I would think it would be somewhere between the $3.2 [million] and $4.2 [million] range."
Hertz, of course, believes that the Citrus should have to make it $4.2 million apiece, because he realizes that would be very difficult for the Orlando-based bowl to match.
Then there's Chuck Rohe, the Citrus Bowl's executive director, frantically working to get a corporate sponsor to make up the difference.
One place that money won't come from is ABC, which holds television rights to the Citrus Bowl. Although an ABC spokesman refused to comment on whether the network would ante up more dollars, even if the game were moved from New Year's Day to prime-time on Jan. 2 as has been discussed, Rohe said ABC had told him that "they just can't bear the brunt of this."
The issue of loyalty has frequently surfaced in this debate. Virginia played in the Citrus Bowl last year after the Cavaliers --ed off six straight victories, and both sides say they enjoy a fine relationship. "I think all of our people would prefer to keep Virginia in the Citrus if possible," Corrigan said. "But we can't make them do anything they don't want to."
And Virginia's Copeland said $3 million apiece would probably be too low if Virginia retains its No. 1 ranking by winning its final four games. The ACC's complex revenue-sharing formula would let Virginia make $550,000 more at the Orange if the Citrus increased its offer to the $3 million range, and each of the other ACC schools would receive about $80,000 more apiece.
If the Orange Bowl's lobbying effort fails, it will wrangle with the Citrus again over No. 3 Notre Dame. "If Nebraska goes undefeated and Notre Dame.