SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. â€” 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, â€œLet's win this one; that wouldn't hurt.â€
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.
â€œAllegiances have changed,â€ said Bob Stoops. â€œI know as a team and a program, we've embraced it.â€
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.
â€œBob and I have talked about that,â€ OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. â€œIn today's world, the Fiesta Bowl is our target destination.