It didn't take Sunday's Bowl Alliance selection show to tell Brigham Young Coach LaVell Edwards that his Cougars would not be playing in one of the year-end major postseason games, despite a 13-1 record and No. 5 national ranking.

"I'm not all that surprised about it. . . . I doubt that it was ever in the cards," Edwards said yesterday in a telephone interview. "If you really look at it, the {Western Athletic Conference} is the only major conference that wasn't included when the Alliance was formed {two years ago}. And if you're having a party and you weren't invited to begin with, it doesn't make sense to reach out to us."

The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 12 and Southeastern conferences, along with two at-large teams, were granted automatic berths in the Alliance, which controls the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. The coalition was formed in part in an attempt to produce a year-end game for the national championship -- which worked to perfection last season when No. 1 Nebraska beat No. 2 Florida in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

This year, after a regular season full of upsets and weekly upheaval in the rankings, a similar No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup became impossible. Florida State is the consensus top-ranked team but No. 2 belongs to Arizona State, a member of the Pac-10, which, along with the Big Ten, doesn't become part of the Alliance until 1998.

The Sugar Bowl, with the first two selections this year, took Florida State and Florida, which moved up to No. 3 following its 45-30 win over Alabama in Saturday's SEC championship game and Nebraska's 37-27 loss to Texas in the Big 12. The Fiesta Bowl, with the third choice, picked Penn State, which ended the regular season 10-2 and ranked seventh. With the second at-large choice, the Orange Bowl took No. 6 Nebraska, which has played in Miami in two of the previous three postseasons. The last two choices were Texas, the Big 12 representative, and Virginia Tech from the Big East. The Longhorns will meet Penn State in the Fiesta and the Hokies take on Nebraska in the Orange.

Fiesta Bowl representatives said they took Penn State because of factors such as tradition, attractiveness to a national television audience and the ability to bring a large number of fans to the game. Orange Bowl officials similarly said Nebraska was the best choice to make their game a success.

Brigham Young accepted a bid to the Cotton Bowl, the school's first New Year's Day bowl game, but it will receive $2 million to play. Teams playing in the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls will get about $8.4 million each. WAC Commissioner Karl Benson argued that any of the three games should have taken the Cougars and said the league will try to have the Alliance rules changed before next season so that a WAC team ranked in the top 12 would automatically get one of the at-large berths.

Along with the economic disadvantage of being excluded from the Alliance, Benson also said the WAC suffers in recruiting high school players who would want to play for the national championship. He added that the WAC also would enlist the support of leagues such as Conference USA, the Big West and Mid-American Conference, which also are currently left out of the Alliance.

"The only totally objective thing to do is make the WAC part of the Alliance because it's clear that being highly ranked doesn't get it done," Edwards said. "I don't know whether it's television, or location or maybe they think we're not as good as the other teams. . . .

"I think there are certainly a lot of holes in the whole process. I don't buy that argument about we're not a factor economically. It just seems to me like the commissioners of the major conferences got together and decided what they could do to keep most of the money to themselves."

ACC Commissioner Gene Corrigan said he disagreed with Edwards but admitted, "I don't blame him for saying those things. I guess I'd be saying the same things if I were him."

"It's a real smack to them, it's hard to accept," Corrigan continued. "People can't argue about how many fans they'd bring. Nobody knows how many people they would bring to a major bowl because they haven't been there before."

The BYU-Wyoming WAC championship game drew higher television ratings nationally than Florida-Alabama and Nebraska-Texas. In the latter game, played at the Trans World Dome in St. Louis, the Longhorns returned half of their allotment of 15,000 tickets.