Oregon Granted Automatic Berth as Pac-10's BCS Bowl Representative

Nov. 17, 2001

EUGENE - The University of Oregon secured its first New Year's Day bowl bid in six seasons by virtue of not even stepping onto a football field Saturday as the Ducks are now guaranteed the Pacific-10 Conference's automatic BCS bowl bid.

Oregon, 9-1 overall and 6-1 in conference play, was idle Saturday however is assured a share of its second straight league title after Washington defeated Washington State earlier in the day in Seattle, 26-14. That outcome translates into the Ducks finishing no worse than a tie for the conference crown with the Cougars, Huskies and Stanford, pending the outcome of Oregon's Dec. 1 regular-season finale against Oregon State.

Regardless of those results, the Ducks hold all the tie-breakers over the other three conference counterparts. With this year's national championship to be played in the Rose Bowl Jan. 3, the Pac-10 Conference's automatic representative will play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Tuesday, Jan. 1, in Tempe, Ariz., unless it is ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS poll.

Oregon could still earn a berth in the national championship game, however head coach Mike Bellotti is relieved to know his team's post-season options have been narrowed to one of two destinations.

'We're somewhat pleased to be the conference representative in the Fiesta Bowl at the least,' Bellotti said. 'It's a great opportunity for us and we're proud and pleased to represent the Pac-10 Conference in post-season play in the BCS. In another sense, I think it takes a lot of pressure off our young men. I think they have everything to gain now and nothing to lose in that we are at least co-conference champions, but have the opportunity to win the outright championship. It's a much different scenario than last year.'

The Ducks could have earned an outright conference title and Rose Bowl berth a year ago but fell into a three-way tie for the championship with Washington and Oregon State when it lost to the Beavers, 23-13, in Corvallis.

'We learned a lot from last year and so we're in a great opportunity for ourselves,' Bellotti added. 'I have great respect for Oregon State, certainly they seem to be playing their best football of the year. The nice thing is that we have the Civil War in Autzen Stadium. But I want everyone to understand that the Civil War in itself has great importance to us.'

It marks the first time in school history that Oregon has claimed shares of multiple conference titles in consecutive years as well as its second New Year's Day bowl berth under Bellotti. The Ducks played in the 1996 Cotton Bowl at the conclusion of Bellotti's first year as the program's head coach.

It also marks the first time a Pac-10 team has laid claim to consecutive conference championships since Washington claimed three straight crowns from 1990-92.

If Oregon does not finish among the top two teams among the final BCS rankings, it would mark the first time since 1946 the Rose Bowl did not feature representatives from conferences with modern-day ties the Pacific-10 and Big Ten Conferences. However to Southern California native Kevin Mitchell, playing in the Fiesta Bowl will still have the same meaning - playing in the game reserved for the Pac-10 champions.

'It's always been a dream of mine to play in the Rose Bowl game,' the Oregon sophomore linebacker said. ' But in reality, we are playing in the Rose Bowl, it has a different name but it still has the same meaning to it (as the conference championship game).

'It's a good feeling for us to know what we have ahead of us now,' Mitchell said. 'There have been a lot of questions at times regarding where we would end up depending on who won or who lost, but now there is no question. If there is still a chance for us to go to the Rose Bowl, we would be glad to accept that as well. But we're just happy to be in the position that we're in. But we've got one more game, we've got Oregon State. For us to come out of it as solo champs of the Pac-10 would be even a greater thing than what we have accomplished so far this year. That's what we're looking forward to and that's what we have our goals set on.'

Ticket information for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl which starts at 2 p.m. (PST) is expected to be released early the week of Nov. 19.

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