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Sooner fans: It's time to embrace the Fiesta Bowl

Columnist Berry Tramel writes that OU fans need to stop longing for the Orange Bowl and return the love the Fiesta Bowl has for them.
by Berry Tramel Modified: December 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm •  Published: December 28, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Fiesta Bowl loves the Big 12. Loves Oklahoma.

Don't believe it? Chatting with Fiesta executive director John Junker the other day about how to get Sooner fans on the Fiesta Express, Junker said, “Let's win this one; that wouldn't hurt.”

The Fiesta all but waves Big 12 pom-poms.

But OU fans can be slow to swap devotions.

By the time the Fiesta was born in 1971 as a safety net for the Western Athletic Conference, Oklahoma had played in seven Orange Bowls.

By the time the Fiesta hit the big time with the 1986 national championship game, the Sooners had played in seven more Orange Bowls.

So you can understand lingering Oklahoman affections for Miami Beach.

But I can't understand affinity for the Orange Bowl at the expense of OU's new target destination.

Time for Sooner fans to embrace the Fiesta Bowl.

I don't mean this particular Fiesta dud matchup, New Year's Night against Connecticut.

I don't mean quit your crusade for a playoff.

I don't mean pack up the Pathfinder, hit I-40 before daybreak Friday and be in Glendale for kickoff. Spend your money however you wish.

But still, snuggle up to the Fiesta Bowl. Embrace the concept, that times have changed, and OU's hopeful holiday home is the desert, not the beach.

“Allegiances have changed,” said Bob Stoops. “I know as a team and a program, we've embraced it.”

I periodically hear from OU fans who lament the loss of the Orange Bowl tie. Lament the loss of a tradition; Bud Wilkinson took five Sooner teams to the Orange Bowl and Barry Switzer took nine. Then Stoops' renaissance won the 2000 national title in the Orange Bowl, and OU fans were ready to annex Dade County all over again.

All told, the Sooners have vacationed in Miami 19 times. That's the fourth-most common alliance between bowl and school, and second-most (behind only Michigan and the Rose Bowl) if you discount regional ties.

But mourning the loss of the old Orange Bowl tie is like grieving over the wishbone's demise.

Revel in the memories. But live in the present. And the present is the Fiesta Bowl.

“Bob and I have talked about that,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “In today's world, the Fiesta Bowl is our target destination.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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OU is inching towards being the Fiesta Bowl's most common visitor. This will be the Sooners' fifth appearance.

Penn State, Arizona State, Ohio State and Nebraska have played in six Fiesta Bowls each, though Ohio State also played in a BCS title game under the Fiesta umbrella.

The schools and bowls with the most common appearances:

33: USC-Rose Bowl.

22: Texas-Cotton Bowl.

20: Michigan-Rose Bowl.

19: Oklahoma-Orange Bowl.

17: Nebraska-Orange Bowl.

14: Washington-Rose Bowl; Ohio State-Rose Bowl; LSU-Sugar Bowl.

13: Alabama-Sugar Bowl.

12: Texas A&M-Cotton Bowl; Stanford-Rose Bowl; UCLA-Rose Bowl.

11: Arkansas-Cotton Bowl; BYU-Holiday Bowl.

*-All BCS national title games are included.


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