A series of arrangements between bowls and conferences apparently will leave Penn State out of a major New Year's Day bowl game next year, even if the Nittany Lions are ranked No. 1 and unbeaten.
The recently formed alliance that includes the Fiesta, Cotton, Orange and Sugar bowls has guaranteed spots for champions from the Southeastern Conference, the Big Eight, the Southwest Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East, as well as Notre Dame. The alliance also provides spots for two at-large teams from those conferences, with the exception of the SEC, as well as the second-place team from the Pac-10. And it provides a bowl (the Fiesta) for a national championship game involving the Big East and ACC champion or Notre Dame.
What it does not provide is a slot for Penn State, which will be an independent for the final time before moving into the Big Ten in 1993.
"It was nothing against Penn State," said ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan. "But right now there are no provisions in the alliance for Penn State. We just couldn't put it all together and make it work."
All of this was news to Penn State officials. "Our assumption is that we would operate as an independent and be in the at-large pool," athletic director Jim Tarman said yesterday. "We received assurances from several bowls that was the case."
According to several bowl officials as well as several conference commissioners, that is not the case. "It was a gray area for one year until Penn State goes into the Big Ten," said Orange Bowl executive director Steve Hatchell.
Penn State's options were narrowed this week when the Citrus Bowl tied up the other end of its game by bringing in a team from the SEC against the No. 2 team in the Big Ten.
Tarman was incredulous and then annoyed about Penn State's situation. "I can't believe the networks would let that happen," he said. "You can't convince me that there isn't resentment out there about us going into the Big Ten."