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Outback Bowl at a glance

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


WHEN/WHERE: 11 a.m., Jan. 1, 2001; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.

TEAMS: Third-choice school from the Big Ten vs. third-choice school from the Southeastern Conference.

TV: ESPN, subject to local blackout. Ticket sales must reach 63,500 at least 72 hours before kickoff for the blackout to be lifted.

PAYOUT: The game will guarantee each school $2-million, although the final payout could exceed that. Out of 25 bowl games, the Outback is the sixth-highest paying. The four Bowl Championship Series bowls (Orange, Rose, Fiesta and Sugar) and the Citrus Bowl have higher payouts.

TICKETS: $45, available at the Outback Bowl corporate office. They will go on sale at Ticketmaster outlets in mid-October. For information, call (813) 874-2695.

LAST GAME: Georgia (8-4) erased a 25-point deficit to pull off a stunning 28-25 overtime win over Purdue (7-5) before 54,509. Bulldogs quarterback Quincy Carter threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Randy McMichael to send the game into overtime. Kicker Hap Hines' 21-yarder sealed the win.

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: The bowl is celebrating its 15th anniversary, dating to the inaugural Hall of Fame Bowl between Georgia and Boston College on Dec. 23, 1986. The Eagles won that game 27-24. In April 1995, Outback Steakhouse became the bowl's title sponsor and the game signed deals with the Big Ten and SEC. The bowl also renewed a contract with ESPN that year. The title sponsorship, TV and conference contracts run through Jan. 1, 2002. "It didn't happen overnight," Outback Bowl president/CEO Jim McVay said. "The game has grown dramatically in terms of national prestige. Fifteen years ago it was a new game, no one knew about it. Now, it's the sixth-highest paying bowl. It's been a unified community effort."

MARQUEE MAGNETISM: Although the Bowl Selection Committee pays close attention to school rankings, history suggests the presence of a marquee player will affect the selection. Two years ago, the bowl invited Kentucky and star quarterback Tim Couch rather than go with higher-ranked Georgia. Last year, it took upstart Purdue and its Heisman candidate Drew Brees. "The selection process involves a number of considerations," McVay said. "You look at overall record, ranking, television and fan appeal. But, if a team happens to have a high-profile national star, it acts in their favor."

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