CHARLOTTESVILLE, NOV. 8 -- The University of Virginia, which had seemed ready to accept an invitation to play in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., will consider the implications of Tuesday's rejection by Arizona voters of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday before making a final commitment to the New Year's Day bowl, school officials said today.
Bowls can extend official invitations Nov. 24, although most games should have their matchups informally in place before then.
"The point is that there are no done deals with the Fiesta Bowl," Virginia Athletic Director Jim Copeland said. "The Fiesta Bowl is one of a number of bowls that we've talked to and that we're interested in. I am aware of what's going on in Arizona and those are things that we have to take into consideration as we make our decisions."
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Wednesday that he would encourage NFL owners to play the 1993 Super Bowl -- slated for Phoenix -- elsewhere after state voters failed to pass a referendum that would have made King's birthday a holiday. Copeland said he discussed the issue with Virginia President John Casteen and other school officials following Tuesday's vote. Casteen was unavailable for comment.
John Junker, executive director of the Fiesta Bowl, said he didn't expect the vote would seriously affect teams' selection processes.
"It is a concern, but it has not been expressed by any teams we've dealt with recently or historically," he said.
Copeland said he had not been contacted regarding Virginia's status with the Fiesta Bowl by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, whose son, Yusef, plays linebacker for Virginia.
But Rick Turner, Virginia's dean of Afro-American Affairs, said the Cavaliers should look elsewhere. "I don't think Arizona deserves any citizen from the state of Virginia or a quality institution like the University of Virginia," he said.
For a school that traditionally has not been politically active, the issue is drawing attention. The lead editorial of Friday morning's student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, dealt with the issue.
"The Fiesta Bowl may very well be Virginia's best bowl opportunity this year," the paper's managing board wrote. "But that doesn't mean the University community shouldn't stop and consider things other than the riches and glory that accompany a New Year's Day game."
The Fiesta Bowl pays each school $2.5 million.
The Cavaliers (7-1 overall, 4-1 in the ACC) play at North Carolina Saturday. They could earn an automatic berth in the Florida Citrus Bowl by defeating the Tar Heels and beating Maryland in their final ACC game, coupled with a Georgia Tech loss to Wake Forest Nov. 17.
Virginia's success had students up in arms at Virginia Tech too. A boisterous and excited crowd of a couple hundred blocked traffic and chanted for tickets on Thursday after being turned down less than an hour after students ticket sales began for the Virginia-Virginia Tech game Nov. 24.
The students' aggravation quickly became outrage when they learned the usual student ticket allotment of 15,000 had been cut by a third because of the game occuring over Thanksgiving break.